Man charged with killing, dismembering transgender teen he met through dating app

A Pennsylvania man accused of killing and dismembering a transgender teenager he met through a dating app has been charged with murder and related counts.

DaShawn Watkins, 29, of Sharon, was arraigned earlier this month and is being held without bail at the Mercer County Jail. He was represented at the hearing by the county public defender's office, according to court documents, but that office declined to comment on the case Tuesday or whether it was still representing Watkins, noting it doesn't discuss pending cases.

Watkins is charged in the death of Pauly Likens, 14, of Sharon, a transgender girl who was last seen June 22 and was reported missing three days later by relatives. That same day, police recovered dismembered human remains in and around the waters of Shenango River Lake, and more remains were found in the area over the next week.

The Mercer County Coroner's Office determined Likens — who would have turned 15 on Saturday — died from sharp force trauma to the head before being dismembered. The manner of death was ruled a homicide.

Watkins was charged with murder, aggravated assault, evidence tampering and abuse of corpse. Prosecutors said they also plan to seek hate crime charges, but those have not yet been filed.

Watkins told police he had arranged a meeting on June 22 with someone he communicated with through the dating app Grindr. Surveillance footage, social media records and cellphone records found that Likens appeared to be on the phone and waiting to meet someone near the lake's canoe launch area that evening, county prosecutors said.

Authorities said the footage also captured Watkins making several trips out of his apartment in the early morning hours of June 23, carrying multiple bags and driving to his apartment in a vehicle that was seen near the lake.

Likens' relatives said the teen was a prankster who aspired to be a park ranger.

“I just want to say what a beautiful, loving person she was and that the hate has got to stop!!" Likens' mother, Jen McClure, told Pennlive.