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The pair had been chatting online for two months after making contact through a dating site.
Hate Crimes Prevention Act to charge someone for targeting a transgender victim, according to the Justice Department.
“Today’s sentencing reflects the importance of holding individuals accountable when they commit violent acts against transgender individuals,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.
Ms Whigham's body was found at about 9.45pm by her friends.
An Air Force instructor later recognised Hickerson in a police appeal over the killing and reported him to detectives, according to the WLOX news channel.