Transgender homeless woman in critical condition after brutal stabbing

A homeless man is accused of stabbing a homeless transgender woman early Wednesday morning.

Austin police say Darnel Esco began bothering acquaintances at an encampment along the Waller Creek trail, near the ARCH. He asked for money, and drugs. 

He then asked where a homeless transgender woman slept, and threatened to stab her. Moments later, police say he made good on his word. 

The woman suffered two stab wounds, causing an inch of her intestines to hang out, bone fractures to the back of her head, and a damaged diaphragm. She also had a portion of her spleen removed. When court documents were filed Thursday, officers said she remained in critical condition. 

“If you stabbed somebody as seriously as you stabbed this person, where someone has lost intestines and almost died, that person to me deserves ten to thirty years in a penitentiary -- especially with that person's history.” said Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association.  

Police say Esco has been arrested for six aggravated assaults and that one of those involved an elderly person. 

Paperwork filed in Travis County Thursday shows that in 2018, Esco pleaded to assault with injury after stabbing someone on East 7th Street. In 2019 Esco was arrested and charged with aggravated assault after stabbing someone at the ARCH. 

In court documents police point out that both of those incidents, as well as Wednesday’s, happened within a two-block radius on East 7th Street -- the area around the ARCH. 

“[Esco] needs to be in penitentiary for a long time.” said Casaday. 

Some homeless Austinites living in encampments near the crime scene had witnessed the crime. They said they were familiar with Esco’s previous crimes and were upset he was back out on the street and able to carry out the stabbing on Wednesday. 

“Well that’s a good question for our district attorney, or the district attorneys that handled his past stabbing cases. If you have a propensity to stab and shoot people you don’t belong on the streets of Austin.” Casaday said, remarking that “county attorney elections are coming up.” 

Ann Howard, executive director of Austin’s Ending Community Homelessnesss Coalition or ECHO, says those experiencing homelessness are often subjected to a high level of violence. 

“I think a real reason to get people off the street is because of safety. And it’s safety for those who are experiencing homelessness who are often the victims of crimes not the perpetrators.” she said. 
She said 1,500 homeless Austinites were housed last year. She would like to see that number doubled. 

“We’ve got to do a better job of getting people off the street, into safe and decent housing so they’re not susceptible to crime,” Howard said.