Transgender woman Claire Penny Lau beaten and died three days later (Altoona, Pennsylvania, USA, 22 November 1958)


In Altoona, Pennsylvania, the evening of Saturday November 22nd, 1958, Claire Penny Lau, 34, of Cleveland, Ohio, who had arrived in Altoona three weeks earlier, was picked up by three men who promised to take her to a local club. Instead they drove her to the outskirts the city, beat her up, and then threw her out of the car. She wandered the city all day Sunday the 24th until she came to the Rescue Mission where she requested medical aid.

She was taken to the Altoona Hospital by the police where she got four stitches in her upper lip and treatment for contusions and lacerations on her arms and legs. During the physical examination the doctor discovered she was transgender (a "female impersonator" in the terminology of the time) and informed the police. The police arrested her and took her to the city jail where she was placed in a cell in the woman's section to prevent the creation of a disturbance among the male inmates. No charge for her being arrested is listed, but it is safe to assume it was for presenting as a woman - she was wearing a blue blouse, plaid skirt, gray cloth coat, and had a blue bandana around her long blond hair.

The next morning, Monday the 25th, the police went to her cell to take her to an interrogation room and she was discovered unconscious. She taken back to the hospital where an X-ray of her head was taken and she was suspected to have a fracture of her skull. Her condition was reported to the press that day as serious.

At 11:15 pm, Nov 25th, 1958, she died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage and the police began a possible murder investigation.





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