Trans-Identified Male Who Murdered His Girlfriend Deemed “Vulnerable” By Oregon Court, Seeking Transfer To Women’s Prison

A judge in Oregon has ordered prison officials to classify a violent trans-identified male inmate as “vulnerable” after he launched a lawsuit claiming he was being discriminated against. Zera Lola Zombie, born Daniel Lee Smith, complained that he was at risk from inmates convicted of crimes against women despite having murdered a woman himself.

In September of 2021, Zombie filed a lawsuit against the state of Oregon alleging discrimination on the basis of his gender identity. Amongst the grievances, Zombie claimed he had suffered “ongoing harassment” by staff and fellow inmates while initially incarcerated at male institutions.

Zera Lola Zombie at the time of his arrest in 2014.

The complaint reported that Zombie, after being sent to the Oregon State Penitentiary, had been placed in a cell with Mikal Shabazz, an inmate serving a 40-year sentence for multiple violent crimes against women. Zombie alleged he made repeat complaints about Shabazz sexually harassing him, and claimed Shabazz had sexually assaulted him on multiple occasions over the course of a year.

After Shabazz was penalized by the institution as a result of Zombie’s complaints, he says other inmates begun harassing him for “snitching.”

Zombie argued that the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) had violated his rights by housing him in a men’s prison, and by placing him in a cell “with a known sexual predator” serving a sentence for “violence against women.” He also stated he was “deliberately and maliciously” misgendered by correctional officers during his time in a male prison.

Zombie’s lawyers filed a request for a jury trial on the matters outlined in the lawsuit, seeking an undisclosed sum to compensate him for his “pain and suffering … emotional distress … economic losses” and legal fees, as well as an award of “punitive damages.”

While Zombie was transferred to the Coffee Creek Women’s Correctional Facility in September of 2021, he was quickly moved back to the male estate. Reduxx reached out to the Oregon Department of Corrections for more information on the transfer, but Media Manager Amber Campbell said she was unsure of the reason behind it.

“I don’t know the details as to why the transfer occurred for adult in custody (AIC) Zera Zombie,” Campbell said. “The Department of Corrections Transgender and Intersex Committee collects and reviews relevant information regarding adults in custody who identify as transgender or intersex and make appropriate facility and housing assignment decisions on a case-by case basis.”

Though Campbell explains the housing decisions are reviewed every six months, she says Zombie was returned to a men’s prison just three months after being sent to the women’s facility.

Zera Lola Zombie as of September 2023. Photo provided by the Oregon Department of Corrections.

While the lawsuit is ongoing, Zombie’s lawyers filed a motion last week seeking for him to be immediately designated as a “vulnerable person” and given special accommodations. Among the requests were that Zombie be housed in a private cell on a unit with no sex offenders, and that he ultimately be transferred back to Coffee Creek.

On September 8, one day after the motion was filed, an Oregon Court granted Zombie’s request to be designated a “vulnerable” person and ordered ODOC to comply with a number of his demands, including being given private accommodations.

Curiously, amongst the requests that were rejected by the Court included Zombie’s demand for a transfer back to a women’s prison.

Zombie is serving a 35-year-sentence for charges including the brutal 2014 murder of Samantha Brown, who had been his girlfriend at the time. Brown’s corpse was found in the trailer Zombie was living in, the woman having been beaten and bludgeoned to death. While the motive for the crime was never made clear, Brown was survived by four young children. 

During the trial, Zombie pleaded guilty to manslaughter and assault to avoid possible murder and attempted murder convictions that could have put him in prison for life without parole. He was also charged with an additional first-degree assault on a separate individual, as well as a count of manufacturing meth. 

Zombie began identifying as transgender in 2020 and started a hormone regimen around that time. He has since changed his name and gender marker on legal documents. His attorneys in the lawsuit also insist he has developed “obvious breasts” due to his hormones, and have used the point as though to emphasize he is at heightened risk in a men’s prison.

Inmate records reveal that Zombie is currently at the Two Rivers Correctional Facility, where he claims he has been branded a “liar” and a “troublemaker” by staff, seemingly for submitting continuous complaints about his housing, cellmates, treatment, and other day-to-day factors he deems unsatisfactory. In the motion filed last week, Zombie’s lawyers claimed that he was sexually assaulted by his last cellmate at the facility, who he says subjected him to unwanted analingus amongst other sexual acts.

The court has scheduled a hearing for September 15 to determine if the temporary measures granted to Zombie will continue and to discuss any other proposed “practical solutions aimed at remedying” his complaints. Following the hearing, Zombie may be transferred to the Coffee Creek women’s prison once again.

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Anna Slatz

Anna is the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Reduxx, with a journalistic focus on covering crime, child predators, and women's rights. She lives in Canada, enjoys Opera, and kvetches in her spare time.

Anna Slatz
Anna Slatz
Anna is the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Reduxx, with a journalistic focus on covering crime, child predators, and women's rights. She lives in Canada, enjoys Opera, and kvetches in her spare time.