Transgender person found murdered in Tampa

Tampa, Florida -- Hillsborough Sheriff's detectives are investigating the death of a transgender individual whose body was found in the park area of the University Area Community Center Tuesday morning.

The park, popular with families and children, is along 22nd St., north of Fowler Ave.

Officials say around 9 a.m., a park worker discovered the body of Samuel Elija Clarke, 25, who went by the name India, in a grassy area near a playground.

"He was a good-hearted person. Very loving person," says India's mother, Thelma Clarke through tears.

Thelma says India was different, but loved to laugh, make people smile, and certainly did not deserve to die this way."

Investigators say India's body suffered from blunt force trauma and the case is now a murder investigation.

About two years ago, relatives say the Hillsborough High graduate who was studying cosmetology, began dressing almost exclusively as a woman using the name India.

"No, it did not matter to me. I didn't care what he was. I still love them -- and he knew that. I can say he knew his mother loved him regardless," says Thelma.

Arrest records show India had a prior arrest in 2013 for prostitution.

"We will be backtracking that, and the person's history and what they may or may not have been involved in to try to learn a pattern of what happened," says HCSO spokesman Larry McKinnon.

Investigators say there's no reason to believe the park itself is a dangerous place. Popular, in fact, with children and families from the surrounding neighborhood.

"Even moms, out here playing basketball with their kids, and stuff like that. And for this to happen, it's just really sad. It just really, really is a sad thing," says neighbor Shirley Davis.

Relatives say they last saw India Sunday.

"His last words when he headed out the door were, 'Mom, I love you, dad, I love you. And we both said 'we love you too,' " says Thelma. "I hope they find out who did this."

Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay is offering a reward of up to $3,000 for information that leads to the identification and arrest of the unknown suspect(s) in this case.

Anyone with any information regarding this case and who wants to be eligible for a cash reward is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477), report anonymously online at www.crimestopperstb.com, or send a mobile tip using a new TipSubmit Mobile application, which is a free download for iPhones, iPads, and Droids.


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