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Murder Of Black Transgender Woman Dominique Fells Part Of Larger 'Epidemic' In Philadelphia, Advocates Say

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Philadelphia police are investigating the grisly murder of Dominique Rem'mie Fells, a transgender woman whose dismembered body was discovered Monday evening in the Schuylkill River near Bartram's Garden.

"For my first thought to be 'not again' means that this is happening way too much," said Deja Lynn Alvarez, a transgender activist.

Fells was not positively identified until late Thursday when details of the brutal slaying prompted anger and sadness within Philadelphia's LGBTQ circles.

Alvarez says she didn't know Fells well but met her through the tight-knit community.

"In our community, whether you know each other personally or not, there's a sisterhood, there's a kinship there and oftentimes if it affects one of us, it kind of affects all of us," she said.

A GoFundMe account started by Fells' family to help with funeral costs far exceeded its $1,000 goal. After just seven hours, it raised more than $40,000. Family describes Fells as "truly one of a kind."

Philadelphia's Office of LGBT Affairs released a statement on Fells' killing, which reads in part:

"The murder of transgender people — especially those of color — is truly an epidemic, and a crisis that we cannot afford to allow to persist any further."

Since 2013, reports from the Human Rights Campaign and Eyewitness News records show at least seven transgender women have been murdered in Philadelphia.

"It's almost numbing and that concerns me because every time we turn around it's something that is very graphic and it's very inhumane," said advocate Sharron Cooks. "If we're going to say that Black Lives Matter, all black lives matter and there should be justice for this young lady."

As police search for Fells' killer, Cooks says the violence against trans women is part of a larger issue that Philadelphia must work to fix -- the lack of access to jobs, resources and secure housing for marginalized groups.

"Dominique's death could have been prevented if there were adequate support, if there was adequate resources," Cooks said. "I personally believe her death, like many others, could be prevented."

Police have not released any further details on the status of the homicide investigation. In the meantime, a virtual community grief session is in the works.

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