Transgender Defense: 'Donna' Says 'Doug' Is the Spokane Serial Killer

PHOTO: Donna Perry is being accused of murdering three prostitutes in Washington State as "Doug" Perry.
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A transgender woman accused of being a serial killer is blaming the 1990 murders of three prostitutes in Washington State on Douglas Perry, the person she identified as before her transition.

Donna Perry, 62, told police in 2012 in an affidavit filed in Spokane Superior Court that she had gender reassignment surgery in Thailand, and when a person transitions from male to female, "there's a great downturn in violence."

She also told police that she intentionally had the operation, which she underwent in 2000, "as a permanent way to control violence."

Perry is being held on $1 million bond in a Spokane County jail and declined to make a court appearance on murder charges this week, according to ABC affiliate KTLY, which first reported the story.

In a case that has been cold for more than two decades, the affidavit filed Jan. 14 says Perry was linked through DNA evidence to the killings of Yolanda Sapp, Kathleen Brisbois and Nickie Lowe, whom police say were prostitutes.

Police allege that Perry shot the women and left their naked bodies on the banks of the Spokane River. She was arrested earlier this year and served jail time for federal weapons charges. Police say they matched Perry's fingerprints to the crime scenes, according to the affidavit.

The accused's reported defense that it was not Donna Perry but Douglas Perry who killed the women is headline-grabbing, but not necessarily a true reflection of how transgender people view their nonconforming identity, according to mental health experts.

"For some people, it's a metaphor: 'I was a different person before I came out,'" said Dr. Jack Drescher, a New York City psychiatrist who sat on the work group on sexual and gender identity disorders contained in the DSM-5 -- the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

"It's a certain way that they use the metaphor when transitioning for those who were very unhappy before and now are happy," he said. "But it's different when a person makes a claim that somehow they have no linkage to the person they used to be –- that would be more of a disturbed presentation."

Having what is now called gender dysphoria in the DSM-5, does not necessarily mean that a person has impaired judgement, which is often a legal defense, according to Drescher.

"It's wrong to generalize from this person's life – it's not typical of the transgender experience," said Drescher, who does not know Perry and is not connected to the case.

When detectives interviewed Perry and asked why the murders had stopped, she replied, "Douglas didn't stop, Donna stopped it," according to the affidavit. Since then, Perry said she is "paranoid and emotional but won't hurt anybody."

"I'm not going to admit I killed anybody, I didn't. Donna has killed nobody," she told police. When pressed if "Doug did" the killings, Perry replied, "I don't know if Doug did or not, it was 20 years ago and I have no idea whether he did or did not," according to the affidavit.

In 1998, Perry served 18 months in an Oregon prison. The affidavit says that when Washington detectives interviewed a cell mate, she told them that Perry allegedly confessed to killing nine prostitutes "because she couldn't breed and the women had the ability to have children and they were wasting it being 'pond scum.'"

Perry also reportedly told the cellmate she was a "sociopath," according to the affidavit. A spokesman in the Spokane County Superior Court Clerk's Office told ABCNews.com that Perry does not yet have a lawyer. Deputy Prosecutor Sharon Hedlund did not return calls.

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