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Today is Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Mourning a Sister Who Stood for Her Convictions

Slain Witness in Pantazes Trial Was Born Male but Lived -- and Died -- as an 'Honest' and 'Unapologetic' Woman

[WASHINGTON, DC] - On many nights, she could be found walking a dark, ragged stretch of Eastern Avenue, a transvestite prostitute known to the neighborhood as "Mimi."

But for all her own scrapes with the law over the years, Kevin Young, who died on the street last week near where she hustled, seemed to possess her own indelible sense of right and wrong.

Twice she was a key witness in murder trials of Dean J. "Dino" Pantazes, the Upper Marlboro bail bondsman convicted of hiring another prostitute to kill his wife.

That's why John Maloney was one of those who filled the Horton Funeral Home on Kennedy Street in the District yesterday to say goodbye. Maloney joined a large extended family, friends from the Northeast Washington housing project where Young grew up, and the transvestites from Eastern Avenue, to celebrate the man who wanted to be known as shown on the cover of the funeral program, as a woman in long gold earrings and a yellow blouse, smiling beneath a light brown wig.

"She risked her life testifying at the trial, and she was murdered," said Maloney, an assistant Prince George's County state's attorney. "The least I can do is take 45 minutes to go to her funeral."

Young, 38, was found moaning and barely conscious with a stab wound to the chest early on the morning of April 9 in front of a duplex apartment five blocks from Eastern Avenue. She died soon after at Prince George's Hospital Center.

No arrests have been made. D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said yesterday that detectives are exploring Young's involvement in the Pantazes case as a possible factor in the killing. Investigators also are examining Young's criminal record, which included convictions for sexual solicitation, assault, theft and contempt of court.

Young made a strip of Eastern Avenue around Fairmont Heights her turf over the past decade and apparently had no qualms about a life spent hustling for sex and drugs.

She was a familiar figure to neighborhood residents, shop owners and police officers patrolling the area.

"We all wanted her to get out of it, but that's not what she wanted," said Hope Young, her sister. "Mimi was headstrong."

Her clients included Pantazes. Young later testified that during one their five or six encounters Pantazes, who called himself Steve, said he was looking for someone to kill his boss's wife. He asked if she was interested in the job. Young turned him down.

After learning of Clara Pantazes' March 2000 slaying, Young told a police officer moonlighting as a security guard at an Eastern Avenue liquor store that the plot sounded like the one concocted by his customer.

Young later picked Pantazes from photographs that detectives showed her. Jermel Ladonna Chambers, another prostitute, eventually confessed to shooting Clara Pantazes.

Young, who wore a woman's blouse and carried a purse in court, was a feisty witness. When Pantazes' attorney, William C. Brennan, suggested that Young was seeking reward money, Young replied: "I love money. I'm a prostitute." And she couldn't hide her irritation when Brennan insisted on addressing her as Mr. Young. "Miss Young," she said, correcting him.

Maloney described Young as "completely honest" and "unapologetic about her lifestyle." He characterized Young's role in obtaining Pantazes' conviction as "very important." Referring to Pantazes' lawyers. Maloney said, "Two of the best attorneys in Maryland tried to cross-examine her and they couldn't lay a glove on her. And the jury believed her."

Pantazes was first convicted in December 2000. After an appellate ruling gave him another trial, he was convicted again and sentenced to two consecutive life terms.

Outside the funeral home yesterday, Young's friends chuckled as they recalled her flamboyant style, infectious laugh and love of singer Patti Labelle. "She was outrageous," said Earline Budd, a friend who runs a health program for transvestites. "When Mimi was there, you knew she was there."

After an hour-long service, Young's copper coffin was loaded into a white hearse, which led some three dozen cars in a procession to the Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Forestville.

Hope Young, her cheeks streaked by tears, lingered after a few prayers were recited, a cemetery worker released three white doves and the crowd disappeared.

"I don't need to have in print that she was a transvestite and a prostitute -- that didn't define her as a person," she said, her cheeks streaked by tears.

"Mimi was caring and loving. She was my sister," she said, before slipping into a car and driving away.

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