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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
November 18, 2005

Gay teen killed in
late-night shooting

Cleveland--A prostitution-related murder took the life of a gay teen on Cleveland’s near west side during the early morning hours of November 14.

Donathyn Rodgers, 19, was shot and killed at an abandoned gas station at West 45th St. and Detroit Avenue.

He had been walking on Detroit with friends just before he was shot.

Rodgers, known as Jay most of the time, and as Jayala while crossdressing, lived in Cleveland Heights with his grandmother and was involved in youth activities at the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center and the AIDS Taskforce’s Beyond Identities Community Center.

He was also known as a prostitute by police and his closest friends. The prostitution was the reason for his crossdressing, and his murder is believed to be related to it.

A high school athlete and track star, Rodgers held a job as a server at an east side Italian restaurant. He was also pursuing a business technology certificate at Job Corps.

Rodgers told his friends he was giving up prostitution after he was arrested by Cleveland police on September 9. He was out of jail on a $1,500 bond and awaiting arraignment November 23 on prostitution-related charges.

A friend of Rodgers who gave only his first name said Rodgers had lived in Atlanta briefly and liked it. “Steve” said he thought Rodgers was planning to return to Atlanta and was on the street to pay for his trip.

Cleveland police spokesperson Lt. Thomas Stacho said a witness driving by the scene on Detroit Avenue saw Rodgers being chased west, then shot by two black males, both in their 20s and about 5’8” and 160 pounds, one light, the other of medium complexion. There are no suspects at press time.

Cuyahoga County Coroner Elizabeth Balraj, M.D., said that four bullets entered Rodgers in the face, back, shoulder, and the outside of his left thigh. She ruled his death a homicide.

Stacho said there were no drugs found anywhere and although it is suspected that the murder was prostitution related, no motive is known.

Stacho said police were called to the murder scene at 3:25 am.

Another of Rodgers’ friends was with him moments before the murder.

She has not given a statement to police.

Karem “CeCe” Mclinden, who describes herself as a transsexual escort, had been with Rodgers since around 2 am.

“Yeah, he was on the stroll,” said Mclinden.

Mclinden said Rodgers had locked his keys in his truck and flagged down a police cruiser on Detroit for help a few minutes earlier.

They were with a friend of Mclinden’s from Detroit who had an outstanding warrant, so when the cruiser stopped, Mclinden and her friend turned away and walked west on Detroit.

Mclinden said the police didn’t help Rodgers get into the truck, but after they left, she also saw the two men and heard the shots from a couple of blocks west of the scene.

“We ran, after the gunshots,” said Mclinden.

The murder sent shock waves through the Cleveland GLBT youth community where Rodgers was well known and well liked.

“He lit up the room when he came in,” said Natoya Cody, another friend.

A community memorial service will be held at the BICC center at 3615 Superior Ave., building 31, on November 18 from 5 to 7 pm. Additional information is available at 216-361‑2428.

Cleveland police ask that anyone with information to contact them at 216-791‑2444.

 

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