The woman accused in the death of beloved Atlanta drag performer Lateasha Shuntel pleaded guilty to eight felony counts yesterday, and admitted her actions led to Shuntel’s death in November 2015
Deanna Roberts, a Florida resident who lied to her victims about being a licensed medical professional, illegally transported liquid silicone to Atlanta and injected it into the bodies of at least four victims. She was taken into custody in May 2016.
“Roberts admitted that she caused the death of one person by injecting her with liquid silicone, and that she also injected liquid silicone into multiple other people, putting their lives at considerable risk,” US Attorney John Horn said in a statement from the US Department of Justice.
Between April 2004 and December 2015, Roberts purchased at least 178 gallons of liquid silicone, a substance that is regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration, and “may be legally injected directly into the human body only as a treatment for certain eye conditions,” the statement reports. In order to purchase the liquid silicone, Roberts submitted an affidavit to the company that falsely represented her intentions, saying she did not intend to inject the silicone into humans.
“Liquid silicone injected into individuals’ bodies can cause serious bodily injury and death, and FDA has not approved any such product for tissue augmentation,” Justin Green, the special agent in charge of the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations’ Miami field office, said in the statement.
That is exactly what happened to Shuntel: On Nov. 16, 2015, Roberts injected her with liquid silicone. The next day, Shuntel complained of tightness in her chest and shortness of breath, “symptoms that are consistent with the presence of liquid silicone in her lungs.” That day, she publicly implicated Roberts in a Facebook post, saying “I don’t think my ass will ever stop hurting.”
She died a day later, and an autopsy confirmed her death was caused by “silicone polymer embolization.” Her lungs, liver, kidney, heart, brain and spleen all contained the substance. The medical examiner believes that in one of her 10 injection sites a blood vessel was punctured, which carried the silicone throughout Shuntel’s bloodstream to her lungs and other organs.
Robert’s other three victims, who were not named in the statement, did not die from their injections. However, she was still charged in those cases with felonies for possessing, transporting and illegally injecting the liquid silicone, as well as additional felony charges for the illegal interstate commerce.
When Shuntel died, she was found in her vehicle and thought not to be the victim of foul play. She was known for her performances at Blake’s On the Park and also worked as a distributor for DAVID Atlanta Magazine as well as Georgia Voice’s predecessor, Southern Voice.
Horn advises all individuals who are looking for enhancements to ensure they come from a medical professional, and says they should not use substances like silicone in ways not approved by the FDA.