North Carolina Woman Allegedly Drives 600 Miles to Kill Brother's Partner

Julie Ann Hopwood allegedly shot and killed her transgender brother's partner.

December 21, 2010, 1:08 PM

Dec. 21, 2010— -- A North Carolina community college instructor is being held on first degree murder charges after she allegedly drove more than 600 miles from Charlotte to gun down her brother's fiance in Michigan, police said.

Julie Ann Hopwood, 56, is charged in last week's shooting death of 35-year-old Amy Chebro, who authorities confirm was engaged to Hopwood's transgender brother, PJ Redbird Tworavens.

"Hopwood was waiting for the victim to show up at work," said Lt. Thomas Goralski of the Livonia, Michigan, Police Department.

Goralski said that Chebro was shot five times just after 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 16 in the parking lot of a business in town. She was apprehended a short time later by police.

Goralski declined to comment on any possible motive for the shooting, but said reports that Hopwood was unhappy about Tworavens' decision to become a man were "untrue."

Reached by telephone, Hopwood's aunt Nancy Leetch said that she had "no idea what happened" and that she thought everything "was fine" between her niece and nephew.

"I never thought this would happen," said Leetch. "It's a shock to everyone."

Leetch said she had just received a Christmas card from Tworavens and Chebro a few days ago. They had been together for 10 years, she said.

She also said that she had no knowledge of Hopwood being unhappy with her brother's sex change.

In a statement released through police, Chebro's mother said, "Amy's fiance and her family loved her deeply and appreciate your consideration in this time of profound grief."

Hopwood's family released a statement saying, "The Hopwood family is devastated by the loss of Amy 'Rion' Chesbro."

"She was a beautiful and spirited woman, and a much-loved member of our family. We do not have any explanation for the actions of our sister, Julie Hopwood. The family asks you to respect our privacy during this difficult time and to allow us peace while we mourn this double tragedy," read the statement.

According to a Facebook page that appears to belong to Hopwood, she had studied psychology at graduate school at Walden University, a Minnesota-based online school. Hopwood also received an undergraduate degree for violin performance from Bowling Green State University, in Ohio.

Hopwood had been a teacher since 2003 at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina, according to ABC News' affiliate WSOC. Hopwood taught respiratory therapy and psychology.

Students told WSOC that Hopwood had taken a "leave of absence" at the beginning of the semester but did not know why. The described her as a "strict but kind" teacher and added that they were "shocked" at the charges against her.

It was not immediately clear if Hopwood has retained a lawyer.