Erie will be represented in Mercer County Saturday July 13 at a vigil remembering young homicide victim Paul "Pauly" Likens.

Likens in the 14-year-old transgender girl brutally murdered and dismembered in late June after a dating app encounter with a 29-year-old man.

Tyler Titus, who founded Compton's Table in Erie in order to create safe spaces for LGBTQ kids, can't get over what happened to Likens. "Having it be this close to home, you can't help but feel it viscerally, like it goes through your whole body," Titus said.

State police investigators report that it was a meet up with DaShawn Watkins, 29, at the Budd Street Canoe Launch in Sharon, allegedly through a gay dating app, that ended with the teen brutally murdered, the corpse dismembered and discovered dotted across Shenango Lake.

Watkins is now behind bars charged with crime including 1st degree murder and abuse of a corpse.  The evidence points to a planned attack. "It does appear that this person sought out Pauly to harm them," Titus said.

According to Tyler Titus, teens are easy targets through dating apps, with predators and posers ready to pounce. "When we don't have physical safe spaces, youth and young adults don't have anywhere to go but online and predators or those who are seeking to harm know this and so it's much easier to take advantage of those who are vulnerable who are seeking community, so this is what happens when we don't have safe spaces."

Titus believes it's up to parents or guardians to teach kids how to set parameters when online. "Our young people are going to be online," Titus said.  "They're going to be on these apps and so it really is those of us who are in either a parenting or guardian or leadership role, our job is to teach them how to do it safely."

Titus said news of a tragedy like the Mercer County homicide can lead to despair by other kids who feel different or alone.  Titus believes that's why it's important to join others at the planned vigil to reinforce a sense of community.  "It erases this false notion that we're alone and it helps create this sense of... there's somebody else out here that I can lean on."

The LGBTQIA+ Alliance Shenango Valley will hold a candlelight vigil in memory of Likens at 7:00 p.m. Saturday July 13.  It will be on the lawn at 87 Stambaugh Avenue in Sharon.  Tyler Titus plans to attend and to take others along.