Philadelphia police are searching for information on the death of a 27-year-old transgender woman found shot in the head in the Northeast last week.

The victim, known to friends as Kyra Kruz, was well-known in the city's gay community, said Gloria Casarez, director of the city's Office of LGBT Affairs.

"She was a visible, friendly presence," Casarez said. "This has been surprising and upsetting to all of us."

Police found Kruz's body about 5 a.m. Sept. 3 in a wooded area off the 1100 block of Adams Avenue, in the city's Frankford section. Before the slaying, Kruz had bought food and drinks from a Wawa on Castor Avenue, about a half-mile from the crime scene, police said. No arrests have been made.

Friends are planning a candlelight vigil Thursday at 8 p.m. at the William Way LGBT Community Center, 13th and Spruce Streets.

Kruz, formerly known as Kris Herold, grew up in Hatfield, said a childhood friend, Amanda Cerini. Raised primarily by a single mother, Kruz moved to Philadelphia after high school. Though she went by Kruz for years, she recently had her last name legally changed to Cordova, Casarez said.

Kruz worked for about a year at the Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative, a nonprofit group that focuses on HIV/AIDS outreach. Elicia Gonzales, the executive director, said Kruz turned up one day in 2010, wanting to know what she could do to help. She was initially stationed at the front desk, but later got a job counseling clients.

"She just immediately made the office light up," Gonzales said. "She didn't think of it as her job. It was her life's calling to give back to the community."

Kruz was also active in gay-pride events, for which she sometimes designed costumes and choreographed performance routines. Friends said she also sang in clubs.

Kruz was private about her personal life, and friends said she always had a positive attitude. But several said that Kruz had struggled in the past with drug use, and that at times her demons threatened to catch up with her.

"She always tried to find stability. She was always looking for a better job," said Jaci Adams, a community activist and advocate for gay rights. "Kyra hit some bumps and bruises in life, but she never lost hope."

Police have asked anyone with information to call the homicide unit at 215-686-3334.

Contact Allison Steele

at 215-854-2641 or