PASCAGOULA, Mississippi - A former Navy sailor has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for the 2016 stabbing death of a transgender woman in Mississippi.
Dwanya Hickerson, 21, pleaded guilty Thursday to murder in the killing of Dee Whigham in a St. Martin hotel room on July 23. Hickerson will also have to serve 15 years for a robbery charge. He could have faced the death penalty if he had gone to trial on the original charge of capital murder.
Autopsy results show Whigham, 25, was stabbed 119 times. Many of the wounds were to the victim's face, and her throat was slashed three times.
Jackson County Sheriff's Deputy Leo Allen said surveillance video showed Hickerson and Whigham walking together into a Best Western Hotel room around 8:30 p.m. He said Hickerson was seen leaving the room alone about 23 minutes later, his shirt around his neck, WLOX-TV reported. Before leaving the room, he took a shower.
Hickerson, a New Orleans native, was training at Keesler Air Force Base to be a weather forecaster, according to The Sun Herald .
Hickerson said in court Thursday that he and Whigham had been chatting online for a couple of months but had never met in person. He said they decided to meet while she was in Biloxi with friends.
He said Whigham picked him up at the gate of Keesler and the two went straight to the hotel where Whigham was staying. He said after they had a form of sex at the hotel, she told him she was a transgender woman.
"I lost. I lost it," he said, saying he really didn't remember much afterward.
Whigham's mother, Vickie Blackney Whigham, criticized Hickerson's punishment.
"I think the plea is a slap in the face," she said. "He gets a chance to see his family and I don't have that chance with my child."
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