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Unsolved: 3 years later, Tonya Harvey's family still searching for justice

On the evening of February 8, 2018, Tonya Harvey was walking home when she was killed on Shepherd Street near Broadway.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Tonya Harvey was a 35-year-old woman from the City of Buffalo who was shot and killed in 2018.

Three years later, no one has been charged with her murder.

"She was a dancer, performer, speaker, writer, model. She liked to make clothes and outfits out of anything … very friendly person," said Harvey's mother, Arnester Vanoy.

On the evening of February 8, 2018, Harvey was walking home when she was killed on Shepherd Street near Broadway.

"There were multiple gun shots to her head, chest and back," Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said. "There were numerous 9 millimeter shells that were found on the ground in the vicinity of her body."

Harvey's mother said she was at home watching TV that evening when her son came to her door. 

"He said they killed [her], and I said killed who? He said 'Boo' because we call, the family calls, Tonya 'Boo,' and I just immediately fell out. And I said, 'well' and cried for I don't know how long," Vanoy said.

Added Harvey's friend and LGBTQ+ advocate Ari Moore: "She wasn't the type of person that did wrong to people, you know? That's what makes it so heart-wrenching."

After she was killed, the story made national headlines, questioning whether it was a hate crime because Harvey was a transgender woman.

Flynn said her homicide happened at a time when there was a rise in attacks on transgender people across the country, but the investigation discovered it was not, in fact, a hate crime.

Flynn said there are many rumors about the motive in this case, but he said one stands out. There was another murder four days before Harvey was killed.

"There is talk on the street that Tonya Harvey knew something about that homicide," Flynn said.

Vanoy said she's been told Tonya witnessed that murder.

"What she witnessed she couldn't get out of her mind," she said.

Three years later, and no one has been held accountable for her killing, Flynn said he needs an eyewitness to come forward.

"We have no information that anyone witnessed the homicide, so no eyewitness has ever come forward," he said.

Vanoy said it would mean peace to have this case solved.  

"Then I'd believe she could rest in peace, then I believe our city streets could be a little safer, then I believe I could rest in peace," she said.

If you would like to know more about this case. Download the Unsolved: True Crime in WNY podcast on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

Here are some resources to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community, and that deal with LGBTQ+ mental health:


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