James R. Bennett-Werra
James R. Bennett-Werra (Courtesy: Facebook)

New Bedford, Massachusetts, US – A 21-year-old’s reckless determination to go on the lam following a string of violent crimes has allegedly led to the death of a 68-year-old woman and severe injuries to the woman’s son. Transgender supporters denounced a news outlet for using the pronoun “he” in a news bulletin that warned locals about the dangerous fugitive.

James R. Bennett-Werra, who is male and identifies as a woman under such names as Jennaya, Janya Love and Jennifer, was convicted in 2015 of assault or assault and battery on a family or household member, and carrying a dangerous weapon. He served 18 months in prison.

In 2016, he attempted an armed robbery of the Rockland Trust Bank in Attleboro. The robbery was foiled by a bank teller, who refused to hand over money. Mr. Bennett-Werra and an accomplice fled for 15 miles before a pursuing officer disabled the getaway car with spike sticks. Mr. Bennett-Werra pleaded guilty to carrying a dangerous weapon, and was handed a 2 1/2-year sentence and 5 years of probation in March 2017.

After serving some time, he was released to the home of a family member, and court-ordered to wear a GPS monitoring bracelet.

On the morning of March 26, 2019, Mr. Bennett-Werra cut off the tracking device and went on the lam.

A Fairhaven police officer in an unmarked cruiser spotted Mr. Bennett-Werra driving a Chevrolet Malibu on March 27. He escaped to New Bedford with the officer in hot pursuit.

In New Bedford, he failed to yield at a stop sign. His vehicle collided with a Toyota Corolla, which contained 68-year-old Janet Murphy and her 28-year-old son Kyle Murphy, records show.

Mr. Bennett-Werrara fled on foot, leaving behind a passenger in his Chevrolet, police say.

The driver of the Toyota died of her injuries while being transported to the hospital. Her son was admitted to Rhode Island hospital in critical condition.

Joint intelligence efforts by Massachusetts Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section, Massachusetts State police detectives and the police departments of Fall River, Taunton, Easton and New Bedford led to the discovery and arrest of Mr. Bennett-Werra at a Pawtucket, RI residence on March 30.

He was extradited to Massachusetts, where he was charged with manslaughter, motor vehicle homicide by reckless operation, assault with a dangerous weapon, leaving the scene of an accident with personal injury, leaving the scene of an accident with death resulting, operating to endanger, failing to stop for police, speeding, failing to stop at a stop sign, unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, and a marked lanes violation.

He pleaded not guilty, and was remanded without bail to the transgender unit of a local jail.

Before the fugitive was captured, New Bedford Live had alerted locals by posting a news bulletin to their Facebook page. Transgender advocates condemned the post as “transphobic” and a “hate crime,” because it referenced Mr. Bennett-Werra with the pronoun “he.”

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