As protests across Florida over the death of 19-year-old Black Lives Matter activist Oluwatoyin Salau continued Wednesday, authorities promised to “seek justice” and revealed that Salau’s death was not related to sexual assault allegations she posted on Twitter just hours before she disappeared.
Salau, 19, was one of two women whose bodies were found on Saturday evening in a Tallahassee home, one week after she was reported missing, according to the Tallahassee Police Department. Police also found the body of 75-year-old Victoria Sims, an AARP volunteer who was reported missing on June 11.
Authorities confirmed to The Daily Beast on Tuesday that Aaron Glee Jr., 49, has been charged with murder and kidnapping in connection to the two deaths, just three days after he fled to Orlando to evade police.
He was awaiting extradition to Tallahassee in a case that has reignited protests in Florida following two weeks of unrest over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
It was not yet immediately clear if there was any relationship between Salau, Sims, or Glee. Court documents, first obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat, say that a family friend told investigators Sims occasionally gave car rides to Glee.
According to The Daily Mail, Glee's mother said he phoned her from jail and confessed to killing Salau and Sims, claiming he had grown enraged at them in separate instances for comments they made to him. His mother, identified by the Mail as Sandra Cutliff, was quoted as saying he suffers from mental health issues.
“Each woman was passionate about improving the lives of others,” the Tallahassee police department said in a Tuesday statement that offered their “deepest condolences to their families.” “With Salau protesting for justice and policy change with Movement 850 and Sims serving the elderly with AARP, TPD is committed to upholding the legacies of their service on behalf of others by bringing the person responsible for their murders to justice.”
Salau had recently become a prominent voice in the Black Lives Matter movement in northern Florida, and had attended protests right up until June 6, when she disappeared.
“We are doing this for our brothers and our sisters who got shot but we are doing this for every Black person, because at the end of the day, I cannot take my fucking skin color off,” Salau said in a now-viral video from one protest. “I am profiled whether I like it or not.”
Just prior to her disappearance, she had posted a disturbing Twitter thread describing how she was sexually assaulted by a man who had offered her a ride to find “someplace to sleep.” The teenager, who didn’t have secure housing, detailed how the man drove her to a church where she had been staying to escape “unjust living conditions” before bringing her back to his house.
“He came disguised as a man of God and ended up picking me up from nearby Saxon Street,” Salau wrote. “I trusted the holy spirit to keep me safe.”
She said that, after taking a shower at the man’s home, he “exposed himself” by leaving the bathroom door open while using the toilet, prompting Salau to tell him she had been sexually assaulted in March. Later, she said that man sexually assaulted her after trying to initiate a massage.
“He started touching my back and rubbing my body using my body until he climaxed and then went to sleep,” she wrote, adding that she escaped from his house after he had fallen asleep to report the incident.
Danaya Hemphill, a friend of Salau, emphasized on Twitter on Monday that the teenager was not homeless—but rather escaping familial abuse, and had been repeatedly sexually abused in the past.
“Oluwatoyin, You spent your life being abused by family, sexually assaulted, and you still managed to FIGHT for black lives. You protected black lives. Only for you to be raped and killed. We need to protect our black women. They are dying while fighting a war for us,” Hemphill wrote.
Authorities confirmed Tuesday that Salau contacted the Tallahassee Police Department on June 6 to report “a possible sexual battery that occurred the previous evening,” but when officers tried to follow up on the case, her family reported her missing.
“At this time, there is no indication that the original battery Salau reported is related to her death,” authorities said. “The information and description Salau provided to police and posted on social media prior to her disappearance does not match the person ultimately found to be responsible for her murder.”
According to the Democrat, Salau was last seen on surveillance footage on June 10, entering an ice-cream shop around 7 p.m. to use the bathroom. Authorities said a search was initiated, with a team of at least a dozen officers deployed as friends and family disseminated missing persons fliers.
As they searched for Salau, Sims was reported missing by her family on June 11. When officers responded to her home, they found it had been “ransacked and burglarized and her vehicle was missing.”
Information found in Sims’ home led investigators to Glee’s home where the remains of both women were found. Phone records also indicated that her cell was at Glee’s home.
When investigators got to the home, they found Sims’ car outside, stuck in mud.
“It appeared as though the driver was attempting to drive north of the stopping location, but was unsuccessful,” court document states, noting that a sheet was placed over the rear of the car in an attempt to hide its identity.
Authorities found Sims’ body inside a bedroom. About 200 feet away, in the woods behind the home, Salau’s body was found covered in leaves, court documents state.
Authorities say while Glee attempted to flee to Orlando via bus prior to investigators arriving, the Orlando Police Department was able to intercept him and take him into custody on Saturday evening.
On Monday, Black Lives Matter activists and supporters across the country flooded social media with tributes to Salau, demanding justice for her killer and pledging to continue protesting in her name.
Activists and political leaders also pointed out what they said was a gaping hole in the Black Lives Matter movement: justice for Black women who are often fighting simultaneous battles against patriarchy, police brutality, and sexual violence.
“Breonna Taylor died of police violence. #DominiqueFells and #RiahMilton died of gender violence toward trans women. #ToyinSalau died sometime after being sexually assaulted. If this movement values Black women’s lives, it cannot afford to focus solely on police violence,” activist and scholar Brittany Cooper tweeted Monday.
California Sen. Kamala Harris said violence against Black women is overlooked, stating that “we must do better to protect Black women and value their lives.” Movement 850, an activist group that Salau was affiliated with, planned to hold a vigil for Salau at the Florida State Capitol on Tuesday, in support of “protecting our Black Women every step of the way.”
“I’m sorry that your life was so painful in your last days on earth,” Dr. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., also tweeted. “You were trying to change America for Black lives. Thank you.”