Man Charged with Murder after Meeting Transgender Teen on Dating App

SHARON, Pennsylvania – A man from Sharon, Pennsylvania, faces charges of murder and related counts after being accused of killing and dismembering a transgender teenager he met through a dating app.

DaShawn Watkins, 29, of Sharon, is currently being held without bail at the Mercer County Jail following his arraignment earlier this month. The Mercer County public defender’s office represented him at the hearing but declined to comment on the case or confirm if they are still representing Watkins, citing the policy of not discussing ongoing cases.

The victim, Pauly Likens, a 14-year-old transgender girl from Sharon, was reported missing by relatives after last being seen on June 22. Police discovered dismembered human remains in and around the waters of Shenango River Lake on the same day, with additional remains found in the area in the following days.

The Mercer County Coroner’s Office determined that Likens, who would have turned 15 on her birthday, died from sharp force trauma to the head before being dismembered. Her cause of death was ruled a homicide.

Watkins has been charged with murder, aggravated assault, evidence tampering, and abuse of a corpse. Prosecutors have indicated the intention to pursue hate crime charges, although they have not yet been filed.

According to authorities, Watkins admitted to arranging a meeting on June 22 with someone he met through the dating app Grindr. Surveillance footage, social media, and cellphone records indicated Likens was seen on the phone near the lake’s canoe launch area, waiting to meet someone on the evening of her disappearance.

Likens’ family described her as a prankster who had aspirations of becoming a park ranger. Her mother, Jen McClure, expressed grief over the loss and called for an end to hate crimes.