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Woman accused of pepper-spraying family outside their home claims she was the victim

AMBRIDGE, Pa. — "My kids' eyes were all red and swollen and they were crying."

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Cecilia Melvin said she, her 15-year-old and her 7-year-old were pepper-sprayed and assaulted by someone they had never met.

A fight between teenagers escalated when one of the aunts of the children involved threw a brick through Melvin's window and pepper-sprayed her family in Ambridge.

That aunt was identified as Dena Stanley. With a warrant out for her arrest, Stanley -- a community activist for transgender women -- turned herself in Friday morning.

However, she then took to the internet to dispute the charges, saying she was the victim. Stanley is now crowdfunding to raise money for her defense and medical bills.

Ambridge police were surprised by that post, which has since raised nearly $2,000.

"We have no proof of that," said Sgt. Glen Sovich. "(Stanley's) the one who attacked the kids."


Channel 11's Renee Wallace spoke with Stanley over the phone to get her side of the story.

"They were coming from all directions, yelling slurs," Stanley said. "They said I was a man and a he/she. I was thrown to the ground and bricked in the head... I was fearful for my life."

Stanley's family released a statement saying that she was the victim of a violent encounter:

"It is our belief, upon review of these horrible facts, that Dena was targeted because of her identity as a trans woman. We are hopeful that the Beaver County DA will immediately dismiss these charges against her."

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