NORTH ADAMS, Mass. (WWLP) – A North Adams man will spend the rest of his life in state prison after pleading guilty to killing his transgender wife inside their home in January 2018. 

According to the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office, 49-year-old Mark Steele-Knudslien pleaded guilty in Berkshire Superior Court to second-degree murder on Thursday. He was sentenced to life in state prison with parole eligibility in 25 years. 

Steele-Knudslien initially pleaded not guilty to killing his wife, Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien on the evening of January 4, 2018, in their North Adams home by stabbing her and hitting her with a hammer.  

The DA’s Office said Leigh Steele-Knudslien’s autopsy showed that she died from blood loss due to a stab wound to her torso. The autopsy also indicated that multiple blunt force trauma to the head was also a contributing factor to her death. 

NBC Boston reported that Leigh Steele-Knudslien was the first transgender person to be killed in the U.S. in 2018. She was a transgender rights advocate who started a pageant for transgender women in New England.

She was well known in the Massachusetts LGBTQ community for activism and helped launch the first New England Trans Pride event.

State Police detectives assigned to the DA’s Office along with members of the North Adams and Adams Police Departments were involved in the domestic homicide investigation. State Police Crime Scene Services also assisted.