A Wisconsin man pleaded not guilty in court on Thursday to charges alleging he killed a transgender woman in Milwaukee back in February.
Cordell M. Howze, 33, of Neenah, Wisconsin, faces charges of first-degree reckless homicide and possession of a firearm by a felon in connection to the death of Cashay Henderson, who was found dead on Feb. 26.
According to the criminal complaint, the Milwaukee Fire Department responded to a structure fire at about 9:20 a.m. on Feb. 26, 2023.
Firefighters forced their way into the burning building to extinguish the fire, and after the smoke settled, they discovered Henderson, unconscious and not breathing.
Henderson, a transgender woman, was removed from the building, and appeared to have suffered a possible gunshot wound to the left cheek.
The Milwaukee Police Department took over the investigation, and when they entered the building, they saw blood on the wall, an unfired 9mm cartridge and several items like a gas can, suggesting the fire was arson.
The criminal complaint also shows the Chief Medical Examiner of Milwaukee County determined Henderson died of multiple gunshot wounds, declaring it a homicide.
Investigators spoke to a friend of Howze who said the two knew each other for about two years, and he was able to identify the suspect with a photo.
Howze asked the friend to take him from Neenah to Milwaukee, so he did. Howze was wearing light colored cargo pants and a dark jacket with gray sleeves, which match the attire the suspect was seen wearing on surveillance footage.
The complaint alleges that Howze was dropped off, and on Feb. 27, he showed back up at his friend’s home without calling. He allegedly waited outside until his friend’s wife arrived home, and had a firearm with a green laser that he pointed at her head.
When the friend returned home, he told police, Howze was in possession of a 9mm handgun with a green laser and an extended magazine. The friend said he took the gun and disassembled it.
Howze then allegedly showed his friend a video on his phone that depicted what appeared to be a dead African American woman with blood on her head. Additionally, the friend saw an aquarium in the room that contained a snake. Police said there was a dead snake in the room where Henderson was found.
The complaint says Howze told his friend, “I caught the body of a disgusting (expletive) tran,” which his friend interpreted as Howze killed a transgender person.
Howze then allegedly put his phone in airplane mode so police could not track him, and he told his friend he wanted to kill “several other people.”
Court records show Howze is expected to be arraigned on June 15.