The woman allegedly murdered by her husband in their North Adams home was a longtime transgender advocate who helped create a beauty pageant for transgender women, friends and activists say.
Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, 42, was also the first transgender woman murdered in the United States this year, according to advocates, including GLAAD, an LGBTQ civil rights organization.
Her husband, Mark Steele-Knudslien, 47, went to the police station in neighboring Adams around 9 p.m. Friday and told police he had killed his wife, officials said. On Tuesday, he was being held without bail after pleading not guilty to a murder charge in a North Adams courthouse.
“He did admit to the murder,” an Adams police sergeant, Scott McWhirt, told the Globe Saturday.
According to the office of Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless, an autopsy by the state’s medical examiner concluded she died from the “loss of blood due to a stab wound to the torso; a contributing factor was multiple blunt force trauma to the head.”
The couple had lived in Adams for several years before moving to North Adams, where they were living on Veazie Street. According to postings by friends on social media, they were renovating their home.
Vickie Boisseau, a longtime friend, wrote on Facebook that she had officiated at the couple’s wedding in April. They “were a loving couple renovating their new home,’’ Boisseau wrote. “She was a big advocate in the intersex/trans community. She loved helping others to grow and live life truly.”
NoHo Pride, the nonprofit group that operates an annual parade in Northampton, marked Steele-Knudslien’s death on its website.
“Our hearts are deeply saddened by the news of Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien’s tragic and untimely death,’’ the post reads. “Noho Pride had the pleasure of working along side Christa at the time the Miss Trans Northampton Pageant was created, now the Miss Trans New England Pageant. Christa, and her hard work for the community, will be sadly missed.”
McWhirt said the couple had lived in Adams for “quite a few years” before moving to North Adams about a year ago. They had been well-known to police due to “neighborhood disputes . . . nothing between the two,” he said.John R. Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.