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'They Got The Wrong Guy,' Says Suspect Accused of Killing Islan Nettles

By Trevor Kapp | March 16, 2015 7:24am
 James Dixon, 24, was charged on March 3, 2015 with killing Islan Nettles. He is pictured heading to be arraigned on the indictment in Manhattan Criminal Court.
James Dixon, 24, was charged on March 3, 2015 with killing Islan Nettles. He is pictured heading to be arraigned on the indictment in Manhattan Criminal Court.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

MANHATTAN — The man charged with the brutal beating death of a transgender woman in 2013 says police arrested the wrong guy and denies even being there when the crime occurred.

In an exclusive jailhouse interview, James Dixon told DNAinfo New York he was at his aunt’s house when Islan Nettles, 21, was beaten to death on 148th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard on Aug. 17, 2013.

“I’m really sorry for the family’s loss, but they got the wrong guy,” Dixon, 24, said from the Manhattan Detention Complex, where he’s being held after being indicted on manslaughter and assault charges.

“I didn’t kill anyone.”

Police initially arrested another man, Paris Wilson, in connection with the killing, but on Aug. 20 2013 — the same day Nettles died — Dixon went to the 32nd precinct stationhouse and told investigators he attacked her, according to officials. Dixon declined to elaborate on what he said to police.

He was released that day, but was arrested March 3, 2015 at his apartment in Clinton Hill. Dixon said police told him they were arresting him on an open warrant for something unrelated.

“They said, ‘Just come with us, you’ll be home in two hours,” Dixon said.

His lawyer, Norman Williams Jr., did not respond to a request for comment. The NYPD directed questions to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. The DA's office could not immediately respond for comment.

The reason for the delay in charging him for Nettles’ death was not clear, but investigators say they struggled because witnesses had difficulty telling Dixon and Wilson apart.

Dixon told DNAinfo he had met a couple friends near his aunt’s house on 131st Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard that night and admitted he had “two or three” shots of whiskey.

They eventually linked up with another group — which included Wilson — to head to a party in the Polo Grounds Houses on 155th Street and Eighth Avenue.

But when they learned that the party had been canceled, Dixon said he and two other friends parted ways. He said he was back at his aunt’s house by midnight.

“I called it an early night,” he said.

Prosecutors charge that Dixon was among a group of seven people who ran into Nettles and two friends about 12:20 a.m. and flew into a rage when they found out they were transgender — which Dixon adamantly denies.

“I can tell the difference between a man and a woman,” he said.

Nettles suffered a serious brain injury and eventually fell into a coma, before her mother took her off of life support three days later.

“I don’t have anything against gay people or transgender people,” Dixon said. “I don’t judge anyone based on their sexual orientation.

"There are transgender people here in jail and I get along fine with them.”

He was ordered held without bail at his arraignment March 3 and Nettles' mother has said her daughter's killer should be charged with a hate crime.

But Dixon insists he's innocent.

“I don’t just go pick fights with random people I don’t know,” he said. “That’s not me."