Two sentenced in silicone death

In July 2003, two people involved in illegal injected silicone "pumping" parties were sentenced in the 2001 death of Vera Lawrence. According to testimony, Ms. Lawrence's lungs filled with silicone while being injected to enlarge her hips. The industrial-grade silicone had been illegally purchased through a furniture manufacturer.

These procedures are especially common among young and poor transgender women involved in sex work and beauty pageants seeking a quick and cheap way to enlarge breasts, hips, cheekbones and lips. The outlawed procedure is performed by unlicensed practitioners, and silicone maims and kills many young transgender women a year.

ed. note: Observe the difference in how each defendant is decribed in "mainstream" versus gay accounts.

Click10.com

'Pumping Party' Defendant Sentenced
Man Gets Maximum Prison Time
POSTED: 4:36 p.m. EDT July 30, 2003
UPDATED: 10:41 a.m. EDT July 31, 2003

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. -- A man accused of illegally injecting a woman with silicone before her death was sentenced Wednesday. Donnie Hendrix (pictured left) was given the maximum sentence of five years for operating without a license. He was given "time served" for a culpable negligence conviction. Before his sentencing, Hendrix, who prefers to go by a woman's name and dress as a woman, apologized to his victim's daughter. "I'd like to begin by expressing my sorrow. For a child to lose her mother, is unmistakably a great tragedy," said Hendrix.
Hendrix's co-defendant Mark Hawkins has a hearing for a new trial next week. The men were accused of causing the death of Vera Lawrence by injecting her buttocks with a large amount of industrial silicone at a "pumping party."
Hawkins' attorney is requesting a new trial because he said it was learned that a nurse on the jury panel was giving medical information to the panel.
As a side note, a Fort Lauderdale detective was in court Wednesday to inform the judge that Hendrix is a cooperating witness in a case against Kevin Hoffman. The detective asked the judge to take that into account when sentencing Hendrix. Hoffman was re-arrested this week and charged with murder. Hoffman had been released after DNA evidence against him was accidentally destroyed at a BSO crime lab. Hendrix claims Hoffman talked about the murder when both men were in the Broward County Jail.
Previous Stories:
* June 10, 2003: 'Pumping Party' Jurors Testify As Attorney Seeks New Trial
* June 3, 2003: 'Pumping Party' Trial Jurors Headed Back To Court
* May 23, 2003: 'Pumping Party' Trial Goes To Jury
* May 22, 2003: 'Pumping Party': Defense Says Prosecution Witnesses Just Wanted To Show Off
* May 15, 2003: 'Pumping Party' Witness Describes Horrific Death
* May 14, 2003: 'Pumping Party' Trial: 'Bizarre, Flamboyant, Unusual"
* July 26, 2002: Men Tells Judge Silicone Injections Were Nearly Deadly
* November 1, 2001: Man Expected To Enter Plea In Silicone Death Trial
* June 25, 2001: Man Pleads Not Guilty In Silicone Death
* June 7, 2001: Third Arrest Made Following Silicone Injection Death
* June 1, 2001: Two Charged With Murder In Silicone Death
* May 30, 2001: Two Men Accused In Silicone Death Face Judge

Miami Herald

2 convicted in silicone death
BY NOAH BIERMAN
nbierman@herald.com

Two juries convicted two men Friday for their roles in a 2001 silicone-injection ''pumping party'' that killed a Carol City woman.
The case drew national attention because it shed light on the trendy phenomenon of enhancing body parts with silicone shots.
The pumping parties, most common in the transgender community, involve injections of silicone into body parts to enlarge them.
The sentences of Mark Hawkins, 38, and Donnie ''Viva'' Hendrix, 34, will probably be very different.
Hawkins faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for his role.
Hendrix, who had a lesser role, may face no more than six years, a prosecutor said.
The men were convicted following a trial in which two juries deliberated each man's charges separately.
Hendrix's jury deliberated about 12 hours. Hawkins' jury deliberated for eight hours.
Hawkins was convicted of third-degree murder and practicing medicine without a license causing serious injury or death. He was not convicted of manslaughter, but he was convicted of the lesser charge of culpable negligence.
Hendrix was acquitted of manslaughter and third-degree murder. He was convicted of culpable negligence and practicing medicine without a license, two lesser offenses.
Hawkins and Hendrix stood silently as the verdicts were read, staring blankly ahead.
As the clerk read the verdicts one after another, the victim's daughter, Tangela Sears, bowed her head and cried. Her mother, Vera Lawrence, 53, died in the silicone pumping incident.
''It was not her time to die,'' Sears said afterward. ``Mark Hawkins killed my mother.''
Lawrence got the injections because she wanted larger buttocks.
She met the defendants through a friend, Corey Williams, who hosted the pumping party in his Miramar apartment on March 20, 2001.
Williams, who testified at this month's trial, received probation in exchange for cooperating with authorities.
VERDICT EXPLAINED
Jason Cottrell, who sat on the Hendrix jury, said he and fellow jurors believe Hendrix participated in the pumping. But, he said, there was nothing to prove that specific incident caused Lawrence's death.
Prosecutor Howard Scheinberg praised the verdicts: He said Hawkins' role was clearer than that of Hendrix, who was at the party but not seen touching Lawrence.
''Mark Hawkins is going to be out of business for a long time,'' Scheinberg said.
He said the men, who were living as husband and wife in South Carolina, ran a traveling business, buying 85 orders of silicone, intended to be used in furniture production, from a North Carolina company.
They preyed on the gender confusion of a mostly transgender population by engaging in a dangerous procedure that would not be performed in a certified medical office.
Scheinberg showed jurors calendars, handwritten receipts and other business records found in the home of Hendrix and Hawkins.
Five witnesses testified that Hawkins and Hendrix had pumped them numerous times in the past, charging a few hundred dollars for procedures and offering discounts to those who recruited new customers.
DEFENSE ARGUMENT
But defense attorneys Eric Schwartzreich and George Reres countered that Lawrence's autopsy revealed months' -- if not years' -- worth of silicone had accumulated in her body.
They relied on testimony from a former medical examiner, who claimed the previous injections led to her death.
They appealed to jurors to hold Lawrence responsible for her dangerous lifestyle. Schwartzreich said Lawrence's death was the result of a poor self-image.
They held up autopsy photos to demonstrate her fixation with having larger hips and buttocks.

Man Convicted in Silicone Death
Paula McMahon, Orlando Sentinel
5/27/2003

[FORT LAUDERDALE] - A South Carolina man could face up to 20 years in prison after being found guilty in the death of a woman who attended a silicone-pumping party in Miramar.
Mark Hawkins, 38, was found guilty Friday of third-degree murder and illegally practicing medicine by jurors in Broward Circuit Court.
His former partner, Donnie Hendrix, 34, was acquitted of the most serious charges against her in the same death. She faces up to six years in prison for the lesser charges of culpable negligence and unlicensed practice of medicine.
The two were charged with manslaughter, third-degree murder and the unlicensed practice of medicine causing serious bodily injury for the March 20, 2001, death of Vera Lawrence, 53. Two juries listened to the evidence together but deliberated and reached their verdicts separately.
"The juries had very intelligent verdicts because Hawkins was the only one witnesses saw with his hands on Vera Lawrence, but Hendrix was standing by in the bedroom while it was done," prosecutor Howard Scheinberg said.
The case provided a window on the bizarre underworld of people who undergo invasive cosmetic procedures at the hands of amateurs in hotel rooms and private homes.
A third person, Cory Williams of Miramar, who invited guests to the illegal party in her condo, pleaded guilty to manslaughter earlier in the case and was sentenced to probation in exchange for her testimony against Hawkins and Hendrix.
"The important thing is that these guys are put out of business," Scheinberg said. "The public and the culture involved in this pumping process needs to wake up. They are literally at risk with every injection."
Lawrence's daughter, Tangela Sears, let out a muffled "Yes" in the courtroom in Fort Lauderdale when she heard the verdict against Hawkins. She said the trial allowed her to get some answers as to how and why her mother died.
"It was not her time to die. Mark Hawkins killed my mother," Sears said.
Prosecutors said Hawkins and Hendrix operated a business injecting industrial-grade silicone into people who wanted to change their bodies. Some were women who did not like their bodies; others were men who wanted to become women.
Hendrix, who also was known as "Viva," previously worked doing makeup and styling for transgender and transvestite people who took part in beauty pageants. At the couple's South Carolina home, detectives found ledgers detailing prices of procedures: $300 for buttocks, $300 for breasts. They also found receipts for the silicone, intended for use as a cleaning product, that Hawkins bought for $8 a gallon.
Lawrence, a grandmother who worked as a secretary in Miami-Dade County government, met Hawkins and Hendrix through Williams, a family friend. She had been getting the illegal injections to enlarge her hips and buttocks for months, maybe years, but she kept it a secret.
According to witnesses, Lawrence got dozens of injections at Williams' condo on the night she died. While she was being injected, she became breathless and was unable to speak. She was declared dead shortly after arriving in the emergency room at Memorial West Regional Hospital in Pembroke Pines. An autopsy revealed that Lawrence died after silicone invaded her lungs.
Defense attorneys Eric Schwartzreich and George Reres argued that Lawrence's death was caused by the cumulative effect of years of injections.

WIS News

(Ft. Lauderdale, FL) July 30, 2003 -

A South Carolina man will serve the maximum sentence for the death of a woman whom he helped give silicone injections.
Donnie Hendrix, who dresses as a woman, will serve five years in prison for practicing medicine without a license. 
 
Hendrix and his partner, Mark Hawkins, are accused of giving silicone injections to Vera Lawrence, 53,  two-years-ago at a so-called "pumping party" where those injections were given. Authorities say she died from complications caused by the injections.
 
Hendrix has already served two years, while awaiting trial.

The attorney for Mark Hawkins, who was convicted of third-degree murder by the jury, is trying to get a new trial because he believes a nurse on the panel gave fellow jurors information that was not in evidence when they deliberated.

by Gay.com / PlanetOut.com Network

August 1, 2003

A Florida transgender woman was sentenced on Wednesday to a five-year prison term for her role in the death of a woman who sought illegal silicone injections at a "pumping party."

According to the Sun-Sentinel newspaper, Donnie Hendrix helped inject industrial silicone into the buttocks of Vera Lawrence, who died shortly afterward. Hendrix was convicted of practicing medicine without a license. Her accomplice, Mark Hawkins, was convicted of third-degree murder and could receive 15 to 20 years in prison.

The fatal incident occurred two years ago, when Hendrix was reportedly known as "Viva," a buxom blonde who served as a stylist for transgender people competing in beauty contests.

The case exposed an underground trend in which people gather in apartments or hotel rooms to inject industrial grade silicone into lips, breasts, buttocks and other body parts to make them bigger.

At her sentencing on Wednesday, Hendrix received credit for time served. She told the judge, however, that her 28 months in Broward County Jail have been "horrific."

She said she had to have her silicone-enhanced breasts removed because they were injured when an inmate tried to rape her.

"I've lived in constant fear from the murderers, rapists and violent inmates I've had to coexist with. I don't think I'll ever feel truly safe again," Hendrix said in court, as reported by the Sun-Sentinel. "I've sat by helplessly as I've watched my body slowly revert back to the state I was years ago -- before beginning hormone therapy -- because I was refused comparable medication."

Gwen Smith, transgender activist and founder of the Remembering Our Dead project, called Hendrix' prison conditions "cruel and unusual punishment."
"While I agree that what Viva Hendrix did is wrong, her sentence does not include prison rape or physical abuse," Smith told the Gay.com/PlanetOut.com Network. "Make no mistake, she will face this in abundance, as have any number of other male-to-female inmates housed with male prisoners. That type of 'punishment' clearly does not fit her crime."

The Advocate

August 1, 2003

Conviction made in Miami "pumping party" case
A transgender woman who helped perform silicone injections around the country has been sentenced to five years in prison in the "pumping party" death of a Miami woman. Broward County, Fla., circuit judge Peter Weinstein on Wednesday gave Donnie "Viva" Hendrix the maximum sentence for her role in the death of secretary Vera Lawrence. "The dangerous, high-risk behavior outweighs any mitigating factors," Weinstein said.
Hendrix, 34, was part of a team that performed the back-alley cosmetic procedures, popular among transgender people, to enlarge body parts. Lawrence, who wanted to enhance her buttocks, died two years ago in a Miramar, Fla., apartment where Hendrix and partner Mark Hawkins were pumping people with silicone.
Hendrix was convicted of practicing medicine without a license. Hawkins, convicted of third-degree murder, faces 15 years in prison when he is sentenced later this year. Hendrix will get credit for having spent the last two years in jail, during which she says she was assaulted to the point that she needed a double mastectomy.
Hendrix's attorney, George Reres, said his client would have been placed in a women's prison had she undergone planned surgery to complete the sex change--canceled when she was arrested.

Orlando Sentinel

July 31, 2003

Silicone death leads to prison
FORT LAUDERDALE -- A transgender man who helped perform silicone injections around the country has been sentenced to five years in prison in the "pumping party" death of a Miami woman.
Broward Circuit Judge Peter Weinstein gave Donnie "Viva" Hendrix the maximum sentence Wednesday for his role in the death of secretary Vera Lawrence. Hendrix, 34, was part of a team that performed the back-alley cosmetic procedures to enlarge body parts.
Lawrence, who wanted to enhance her buttocks, died two years ago in a Miramar apartment where Hendrix and partner Mark Hawkins were pumping people with silicone.
Hendrix was convicted of practicing medicine without a license. Hawkins, convicted of third-degree murder, faces 15 years in prison when he is sentenced later this year.

Click10.com news

Transgender In Prison For Woman's Silicone Death
Man Gets Maximum Sentence For Pumping Silicone Into Woman's Buttocks
POSTED: 10:26 a.m. EDT July 31, 2003

Donnie Hendrix at sentencing

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- A transgender man who helped perform silicone injections around the country has been sentenced to five years in prison in the "pumping party" death of a Miami woman. Broward Circuit Judge Peter Weinstein gave Donnie "Viva" Hendrix the maximum sentence Wednesday for his role in the death of secretary Vera Lawrence.
"The dangerous, high-risk behavior outweighs any mitigating factors," Weinstein said. Hendrix, 34, was part of a team that performed the back-alley cosmetic procedures to enlarge body parts, popular in the transgender community.
Lawrence, who wanted to enhance her buttocks, died two years ago in a Miramar apartment where Hendrix and partner Mark Hawkins were pumping people with silicone.
Hendrix was convicted of practicing medicine without a license. Hawkins, convicted of third-degree murder, faces 15 years in prison when he is sentenced later this year.
Hendrix will get credit for having spent the last two years in jail, during which he says he was assaulted to the point that he needed a double-mastectomy.
Hendrix's attorney, George Reres, said his client would have been allowed in a women's prison had he undergone planned surgery to complete the sex change, but it was canceled when he was arrested.

More on dangers of injected silicone.