Motel meeting that took a brutal twist
THE motel room carpet is covered in blood - it's a clear indication of what happened.
The victim's face is bruised and bloody and her ear is barely attached - it's a clear indication of what happened.
Her attacker confessed to being there, to inflicting the beating and to stealing her phone - it's a clear indication of what happened.
But three-and-a-half years after Aliah Hernandez was left to die on the floor of a seedy motel in New Braunfels, Texas, the man who left her there carries a squeaky clean record.
Ms Hernandez, 41, says the only reason he has escaped conviction is because she's different. She doesn't fit the mould of the perfect victim because she's transgender and lives in America where prejudice takes precedence over cold, hard proof.
"I'm trying to make (my story) public as much as I can so I can get justice," she told news.com.au from her home this week.
"That person changed my life forever. He needs to go to jail."
That person is Cameron Wright, a man who charmed her when he rolled up to her drive-thru window in 2014 and told her: "You're beautiful."
He told her they should go out and she agreed. She'd been single for a while and needed something good in her life.
Within hours, after a flurry of text messages, the pair were alone in a motel room she'd paid for, drinking vodkas and getting to know each other.
"There's something I've got to tell you first," she said, as he tried to kiss her. He asked her if she was married, or had children. "No" and "no".
"Whatever it is, I don't care," he said. But that was a lie.
She told the publication that Wright grabbed her wrists and assured her should would die at his hands.
"I hate you f***ing people," he said. "You're going to die tonight."
Police arrived to find Ms Hernandez slumped in the motel lobby about 3.30am, half-conscious. Her left ear was partially ripped off and would require plastic surgery. Her injuries were serious and her hospital bills totalled more than $22,000 ($A29,100).
She didn't have her phone. Wright had taken it to delete any record of the pair's conversations before discarding it.
The young man co-operated with police when they tracked him down. He agreed with almost every element of the victims' story but the justice system in Texas complicated matters.
It's now 2018 and the only thing Wright has been charged with is the theft of her phone - officially "interfering with an emergency call". He has not been charged with assault.
Ms Hernandez grew up in Mexico where she knew from an early age that she felt different. When she began identifying as female, she was ridiculed.
A new life started in America. She moved to Texas, then later to Las Vegas, where sexuality and gender diversity are celebrated. At 25 she began transitioning with the assistance of oestrogen shots at $30 a pop. She had breast implant surgery when she was 27 and "began to look and feel like the person she wanted to be".
But the attack shook her confidence badly. She moved from New Braunfels because she feared for her safety. On Facebook this week, she lamented the fact that justice had alluded her.
"Three years ago I was the victim of a homophobic person that tried to kill me because I'm transgender," she wrote.
"He confessed to the crime but was never arrested or charged for violently attacking me. Today marks a new fight against those that hurt me and those that denied me justice and I want everyone to know about this corruption.
"This is just the beginning."
In response to messages of support, she wrote: "I've tried everything. I want justice. I need help."
Police have so far been unable to provide that help. The detective who extracted a confession from Wright said he believed her attacker would go to prison. But he didn't.
Comal County district attorney Jennifer Tharp met with Ms Hernandez on several occasions. "There's nothing else we can do," Ms Tharp told her in 2015.
The FBI agreed to look into the case to determine whether they could help. They couldn't either.
The fact that marijuana and vodka were involved was a problem, her lawyers were told. The fact that she was undocumented might undermine her credibility, they were told. They didn't explicitly say that being transgender put Ms Hernandez at a disadvantage, but they didn't have to.
Wright's charge for stealing Ms Hernandez' phone is still pending. It has been postponed 10 times. Attempts by reporters to contact him have been unsuccessful.
In the face of overwhelming odds and frustrated by setback after setback, Ms Hernandez continues to fight. She's been fighting since she was a boy named Blas in Mexico and she was laughed at for wanting to be a girl.
She's not going to stop now.