reports on the horrific death of a young Black woman in Wisconsin.
FAMILY, FRIENDS and supporters of Aprina Paul are still seeking justice in the horrific death of the Black 18-year-old, whose remains were found burned in a backyard fire pit in Evansville, Wis., on October 30.
Nathan Middleton, a 29-year-old white man who lives in the house, told police that he picked up the Madison College nursing student after meeting Aprina on Craigslist, smoked marijuana and had consensual sex with her, before waking up the next day to find her dead body.
He claims he panicked at this--but then carefully cleaned his home of all evidence of Aprina being there and proceeded to hide her body. Middleton told police  that when his fiancée went into town to buy supplies to make s'mores, he put Aprina's body in the fire pit, covered it with wood and kerosene, and lit it on fire. He and his fiancée sat by the fire until nearly midnight.
Aprina's mother, Alice Larrue, said in an interview that Middleton called her, using Aprina's cell phone, and admitted to her where her daughter's remains were located. Larrue said she called the authorities, and the Rock County Sheriff went to Middleton's home, where they found bones in the fire pit, precisely where he had told Aprina's mother they were.
Despite all of this, police proceeded to investigate the case as a death, not as a homicide. They claim Paul's remains were so destroyed that they couldn't yet determine how she died. Middleton was arrested on suspicion of a probation violation. His telephone conversation with Aprina's mother was dismissed and never spoken about in the media.
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FROM THE beginning, the police and media have tried to protect Middleton's reputation against any suspicion that he might have killed Aprina--as if the death of this innocent, Black youth was unimportant.
"If her name was Susan or Sally, there would be a lot of media coverage about this brutal murder, and Middleton would have been charged with homicide," said 19-year-old A.J., a community member and friend of Aprina.
This country has a history of withholding justice to Black victims, but we have been seeing more media coverage around violence against the Black community since the killing of Trayvon Martin.
We thought nothing could shock us again after the not-guilty verdict that let George Zimmerman, a man who admitted to killing the African American 17-year-old, live freely without being held accountable for his actions.
Cases like Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride from Detroit and Aprina Paul remind us that Black life is not valued in the U.S. The way Aprina's death was never labeled a homicide parallels with how it took months after Trayvon's shooting for Florida police to even charge George Zimmerman with a crime.
Now, after 15 long, tearful days, Nathan Middleton has been charged. But justice is still far away. Middleton has been charged on a total of six counts: hiding a dead body, mutilating a dead body, failure to alert a coroner, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and soliciting a prostitute.
After finding more than a dozen of Aprina's teeth; after Middleton's traumatizing conversation with the mother; after the killer's fiancée wrote on Facebook, "Hunny, I know you did do it, I miss you and love you Nathan"; after identifying the burnt objects in his backyard as the bones of this kind, young human being--after all that, four out of the six charges against Middleton are misdemeanors.
Instead of digging into Middleton's past, the media have instead focused much of their attention on the reason Aprina Paul went willingly to Middleton's home. Middleton claims he met her on Craigslist after she answered an ad he posted for partying.
Reporters have called this teenager a prostitute and escort, and all but said that she deserved what happened to her. This follows a common pattern: when Black lives are taken by white perpetrators, the reputations of the victims are slandered. By muddying their names, the media helps to justify their deaths.
A recent example took place during the Trayvon Martin case. Investigation of his murder included a toxicology screen of the high school student's blood, which the media reported as containing traces of marijuana--as if the fact that the youth occasionally smoked weed was relevant to his murder.
Similarly, investigators and the media are trying to find "dirt" on Aprina. As a community, we are here to say that whether or not Aprina was doing sex work is irrelevant, just as whether or not Trayvon Martin smoked weed is. No one deserves to die the way these victims did.
Aprina's killer was only charged with harming a body. Aprina Paul was more than a body. She was an intelligent student. She was a kind friend, a nurturing big sister whose life was stolen. Enough with the sweeping of our children's deaths under the rug. We want justice for Aprina Paul now.
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A memorial service is scheduled for Aprina Paul on November 23, at 2926 Fish Hatchery Road, Fitchburg, Wis.
To find out how you can help out with the Justice for Aprina Paul Campaign, contact Alix Shabazz, Youth Organizer at Freedom Inc., at 608-210-9623 or e-mail email@example.com.