Man charged in fatal stabbing of sex worker
Police arrest and charge a man less than three months after a 26-year-old transgender woman, January Marie Lapuz, was fatally stabbed at her New Westminster home. Her relieved friend wants justice for January. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
Friends of slain transgender woman January Marie Lapuz, a sex worker found dead in her home in September, are hoping for justice after a man was arrested Wednesday on a second-degree murder charge.
The 26-year-old was stabbed in her New Westminster basement suite on Sept. 30. Police said at the time they were looking for an Asian man in his mid 20s spotted fleeing the scene.
Charles Jameson Neel, 20, has been charged.
Close friend Matthew Piercy recalled Thursday how Lapuz radiated happiness to those around her, despite struggling with addiction.
“What she was doing wasn’t because she thought the sex trade was some great profession with glamour,” the downtown resident said, “she did it because that was what she was doing to survive.”
The Philippines native worked for several years as a community co-ordinator with Sher Vancouver, a LGBTQ group supporting South Asians.
Group founder Alex Sangha told 24 hours the community has yet to heal, having lost the woman he called the social “glue” to their organization.
“At our annual Christmas party every year … it was her idea to collect food or non-perishables for the various charities and collect cash donations for the people of the Downtown Eastside,” he said.
“She would do fundraising. She would do networking, helping to get more people involved in the group and providing support.”
Sangha and Piercy are grateful police have taken the case seriously. Lapuz has an adopted mother living locally.
Homicide Sgt. Jennifer Pound, in a statement, said police continue to investigate.
Neel next appears in New Westminster court on Jan. 7.