A former navy sailor has been sentenced to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty to the 2016 killing of a transgender woman in Mississippi with whom he’d had a sexual encounter, a Jackson County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson confirms to PEOPLE.
Dwanya Hickerson, 21, pleaded guilty on Thursday to killing Dee Whigham in a St. Martin, Mississippi, hotel room last July 23, the Associated Press reports. Autopsy results show that Whigham, 25, was stabbed at least 119 times. Many of the wounds were to the victim’s face, and her throat was slashed three times, the spokesperson confirms.
Hickerson also pleaded guilty to robbery for taking Whigham’s purse and cell phone, the spokesperson says. Jackson County District Attorney Tony Lawrence recommended he serve 40 years for the count of second-degree murder and eight years for the robbery, The Clarion-Ledger reports.
Hickeron could have faced the death penalty for the original capital murder charge.
As part of the plea, Hickerson apologized to the victim’s family. The spokesperson confirms Hickerson said, “I’d like to apologize to the victim’s family. If I could take it back I would.”