Donna Perry, a 62-year-old transgender woman accused of being a serial killer who took the lives of three prostitutes in Washington in 1990, has blamed the killings on Douglas Perry, the man she was until she got a sex change in Thailand in 2000.
And as the case draws more attention nationally, experts in the transgender community are concerned Perry's claim will only harm the community's image.
In an affidavit filed in Spokane Superior Court in 2012, Donna told police that she intentionally underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2000 "as a permanent way to control violence," according to an ABC News report.
Police allege that in 1990 Perry shot three prostitutes: Yolanda Sapp, Kathleen Brisbois and Nickie Lowe, and left their naked corpses on the banks of the Spokane River.
The case had been cold for more than 20 years when Perry was linked to the murders through DNA evidence.
Perry's fingerprints were matched to the crime scenes and she was arrested earlier this year. She did not appear in court this week to answer to the murder charges and is being held in a Spokane County jail on a $1 million bond.
While Perry's claim that it was her former self that committed the crimes instead of the woman she is today makes a good headline, according to mental health experts who say her claim does not necessarily reflect how transgender people view their identity.
"For some people, it's a metaphor: 'I was a different person before I came out,'" explained Dr. Jack Drescher, a New York City psychiatrist who sat on the work group on sexual and gender identity disorders contained in the DSM-5 – the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual according to ABC News.
"It's a certain way that they use the metaphor when transitioning for those who were very unhappy before and now are happy," he said. "But it's different when a person makes a claim that somehow they have no linkage to the person they used to be –- that would be more of a disturbed presentation."
According to the affidavit, when police asked Perry why the murders had stopped, she said, "Douglas didn't stop, Donna stopped it." Since then, said Perry said she is "paranoid and emotional but won't hurt anybody."
"I'm not going to admit I killed anybody, I didn't. Donna has killed nobody," she told police. When asked if "Doug did" the killings, Perry replied, "I don't know if Doug did or not, it was 20 years ago and I have no idea whether he did or did not."
One of Perry's former cell mates who served time with her in an Oregon prison in 1998, also told Washington detectives that Perry allegedly confessed to killing nine prostitutes, "because she couldn't breed and the women had the ability to have children and they were wasting it being 'pond scum.'"