Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Infamous Lesbian Murder Case Cracked in Texas: Alleged Shooter Arrested After Two-Year Investigation

David Malcolm Strickland, suspect in the lesbian murder assault case (EDGE photo).

David Malcolm Strickland, suspect in the lesbian murder assault case (EDGE photo).

Portland, Texas – Nearly two years after teenage lesbian lovers were abducted and shot on a steep grassy hillside in this South Texas coastal town, a 27-year-old suspect has finally been arrested, according to Portland, Texas law enforcement authorities.  David Malcolm Strickland was arrested Friday and charged with the capital murder of Mollie Olgin, 19 at the time of the shooting, and for the aggravated assault with a deadly weapon of Kristene Chapa, 18, whom he allegedly shot in the head at the same time.  Chapa survived, though the damage to the left side of her brain left her unable to walk, sit, or stand.  Only with years of therapy and surgery has Chapa been able to reacquire her balance and mobility.  In addition to these charges, the shooter has been charged with aggravated sexual assault. Details are still emerging from the investigation, and further charges may be brought, according to authorities. Strickland’s wife, Laura Kimberly, 23, has also been detained by Portland Police, and faces charges of tampering with evidence.

“I hope that it gives [the victims, their families, and community members] some closure knowing that this person is taken off the street,” Portland Police Chief Gary Giles said to NBC News. “It is one day before the two-year anniversary. We’ve been working very hard to make sure we get him as soon as possible. A series of fortunate events has led us to this point and I’m just very happy that we could help in — at least at this point — in bringing him to justice.”

Strickland was apprehended in the Helotes suburb of San Antonio on Friday by Texas Rangers and U.S. Marshals. Texas Rangers, U.S. Marshals, and Portland Police officers took Strickland’s wife into custody.  Robert R. Almonte, U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas told NBC News, “My sympathies and condolences to the victims and their families who had to endure this wicked act of violence. [Strickland] is a stone cold killer who thought he got away with murder, but will finally pay for his crime.”

The reconstructed murder event that took place in Portland remains chilling, even after two years.  Chapa, now 20 years old, said she went with Olgin on Friday night, June 23, 2012 to Violet Andrews Park, to see where Olgin had been baptized.  The suspect forced the teenagers at gun point down a steep incline where he bound them, sexually assaulted them, and shot them both, leaving them to die.  A couple out bird watching the next morning discovered the victims.  Olgin had died of her wounds, but Chapa, who had clawed her way out of the sharp, thorny brush, survived, and was rushed to a medical center for emergency surgery.  Chapa returned to the scene of the crime to assist investigators.  She recounted to a reporter how difficult it was for her to go back to the place where her lover died so cruelly. “I felt every cut, every thorn go through my hand,” she said of the brush she fought to get out of, pointing to the scars still plainly visible on her arms. “I kept thinking, ‘I’ve got to get help.’”

Sergeant Roland Chavez of the Portland Police Department discussed the investigation with reporters.  DNA evidence from finger prints around the crime scene initially belonged to over 250 suspects, Chavez said.  Then the slow process of singling out the shooter had to go step-by-step.  Investigators wanted to make sure they had the right man before making the arrest, else they feared Chapa would only be victimized again by a false ID.  The shooter used a .45 caliber handgun on the teenagers, sometime between 11:30 p.m. and midnight on Friday, June 23, 2012.  The teenagers had no prior knowledge of their attacker, which complicated the case, making it even seem more brutal and bizarre.  Neither did the suspect have a previous criminal record, providing officers another hurdle to overcome.  Chavez speculated that the shooter may have fantasized about such a crime long before the actual event, and worked himself up to doing it over time. The birdwatching couple who discovered Olgin and Chapa stumbled across the gruesome scene at about 8:30 a.m. the next day.

R to L: Mollie Judith Olgin (deceased), and Mary Kristene Chapa, teen victims of brutal shooting two years ago this month.

R to L: Mollie Judith Olgin (deceased), and Mary Kristene Chapa, teen victims of brutal shooting two years ago this month.

Authorities are still at a loss to explain the motive for the crime at this point.  They have consistently ruled out anti-lesbian hatred as a motive, but the suspicion that homophobia and certainly heterosexism may have played a part in targeting the couple just won’t go away. Hate crimes against women are particularly difficult to sort out, since homophobia is so often a weapon of sexism.

Chapa still struggles to open and close her left hand.  The bullet destroyed the area of her brain controlling motion on her left side.  Her wounds left her an invalid, much like a stroke victim.  Hard work, support, and courage are paying off.  Though she will never regain total mobility, Chapa told reporters that she knows she will almost get there, if she just keeps up the struggle.  Worse for her is the loss of her girlfriend, Mollie Olgin.  “Every day I think about her,” she said of Olgin. “I pray for her, just for her to watch over me.”  Since the attack, Chapa has reached out to other victims of gun violence and paralysis, like the families devastated by the Newtown School shooting in Connecticut.  “I opened up myself to them and just told them how my story is similar, I just put my feelings in there,” she said to NBC News, also saying that she hopes “to meet more victims who have been shot because we relate. I’m pretty sure we’ve been through a lot of the same things and have felt the same ways.”

She and her parents are still appealing to the public to help fund Chapa’s rehabilitation, care, and recovery.  Her family has exhausted their resources, and though a good deal of money has been donated these past two years, it hasn’t been enough.  Chapa says that she and her folks are “pretty much alone” in the effort to finance her health care. The funding site originally set up to assist with Chapa’s care has been discontinued without public explanation.

After a news conference arranged by the Portland Police Department to announce Strickland’s arrest, Chapa reflected on her feelings.  Though she told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times she felt safer now that the suspect was in custody, the pain and loss are still there for her. “It will never take back the pain and hurt he did to our families. And it won’t bring Mollie back,” she said. “Right now for both our families this is very hard.”  

San Patricio District Attorney Michael Welborn believes they have their man. “We feel we have a very strong case to put forth,” he said. “We fully believe that we are going to bring justice to these two young ladies and their families.”

June 23, 2014 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian teens, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Texas, women | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Infamous Lesbian Murder Case Cracked in Texas: Alleged Shooter Arrested After Two-Year Investigation

Murdered Lesbian Couple Dumped Like Trash in Texas

Crystal Jackson (l) and Britney Cosby (r), both 24, found murdered beside a dumpster.

Crystal Jackson (l) and Britney Cosby (r), both 24, found murdered beside a dumpster.

Port Bolivar – Suspicions are mounting in the double murder of a Texas Lesbian couple whose bodies were discovered by a dumpster in Port Bolivar.  KHOU Houston reports that the corpses of Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson, both 24, were found dumped beside a trash dumpster outside of Fisherman’s Cove store by a beer deliveryman taking out garbage early on March 7.  Galveston Sheriff’s Department officials say that the young women were in a romantic relationship.  Details of the murders remain scarce, but  officials have said that each of the victims was killed in a different way, and that the lack of blood at the scene suggests they were murdered at another location, after which their bodies were taken to the dumpster site.

KTRK Eyewitness News says that the young lesbians who lived with their great grandmother had gone to Galveston for Mardi Gras. Jackson, who is described by her relatives as loving her partner Cosby, leaves behind a five year old daughter.  The child considered Cosby and Jackson as her parents.  The families of both women are desperate for answers.  They are pleading for informers to come forward and give authorities leads as to who killed their loved ones.  McDade Cosby, Britney’s sister, begged the public via KTRK, “Just come forward, just to give us closure as a family. Just come forward, ’cause we need closure at this point.” Crystal’s sister, Lequita Jackson, sobbed as she decried the murder, “What did they do to you to kill my sister? You beat my sister up and you just, you messed her up to the point she can’t breath no more.”  

Police are searching for Britney Cosby’s 2006 Silver Kia Sorrento that appears to have been stolen.  Authorities believe whoever took the vehicle may be the key to this grisly double murder.  In an update on the case, a police sketch of a prime suspect in the murders has been released to the press.

The quiet beach town is rattled and on edge from the news of the murders.  Residents say they do not feel safe.  “Unbelievable, it’s scary,” Nancy Palley, a Port Bolivar citizen, said to Huffington Post. “You know, I told my husband we are making sure to lock our doors today. I’m not coming home to find someone in my house.”  Though an explicit statement that these killings are an anti-gay hate crime, that possibility looms large in the minds of the public and law enforcement.  This case recalls the double shooting of two lesbians in Portland, Texas, a Corpus Christi area town, in 2012.  Mollie Olgin, 19, was found dead at the scene of a gunshot wound, and her partner, Mary Christine Chapa, 18, was grievously wounded but survived.  No one has been arrested in the Portland murders.

March 11, 2014 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Texas, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Murdered Lesbian Couple Dumped Like Trash in Texas

Murdered African American Woman Remains Unidentified–Was She Lesbian?

“Jane Doe,” as rendered by Ellis County’s Sheriff’s Office, along with photos of tattoo markings on her decomposed body.

Ellis County, Texas – The decomposing corpse of an African American woman was discovered in a rural, wooded area of Ellis County on Monday, July 23. Get Equal Texas is organizing a massive campaign to identify her, and to seek out the person or persons who took her life. In a press release dated July 31, Get Equal states on its Facebook page: “She is approximately 5’4 inches tall and weighing approximately 115 pounds. She is believed to be of African-American heritage. She was wearing a black or dark gray tank top, blue jean shorts and white Nike tennis shoes with purple shoe laces. It is believed she may have disappeared on or after the early afternoon of July 17, 2012.”  The Ellis County Sheriff’s Office has released a forensic artist’s best guess about the likeness of “Jane Doe,” along with photographs of tattoo markings on her corpse.

Sheriff’s Department Investigator Joe Fitzgerald reported to the Dallas Voice that “Jane Doe” had connections to Dallas and Irving, and was probably a member of the LGBTQ community. Tell-tale trauma evidence on the corpse indicates she was murdered at another location and then brought out to the Ellis County woodlands, a desolate stretch of sparsely populated countryside south of Dallas. “Someone killed her and threw her to the side of the road,” Fitzgerald said. He went on to say that investigators were disturbed that no missing person’s report has described a woman with the characteristics of the deceased.

C.D. Kirven, well-respected activist and member of Get Equal’s Board, said, “If this was a lesbian woman, this makes a third lesbian woman of color brutally attacked in Texas within a month’s time. As a member of the LGBT community and a woman of color, this is not just an attack on this woman but on me and others in my community.” 

Examiner.com draws a possible connection with the brutal murder and assault on two lesbian teenagers of Latin descent earlier in the summer on the Texas Gulf Coast. Mollie Olgin, 19, died of a gunshot to the head in a Portland, Texas State Park.  Her girlfriend, Mary Kristene Chapa, 18, survived her wounds, and has recently been discharged from hospital to recover and rehabilitate. Noting that police have still arrested no one for the attack on Olgin and Chapa, the Examiner post goes on to speculate:  “It very well could be that all three of these violent crimes are related. This is why a warning should go out in the Texas area for it seems that our gay sisters are becoming targets for dangerous individuals whether the police wish to admit to this insight or not.” The post goes on to call upon all members of the LGBTQ community to assist in spreading the artist’s sketch of the Ellis County “Jane Doe” and to warn women to be on their guard for a killer or killers of lesbian women of color still at large in Texas.

“The anonymous nature of this killing demands an all-out effort on the part of the LGBTQ community in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex to recover the identity of this woman whose death is the very definition of an ‘unfinished life,'” said Stephen Sprinkle, Founder and Director of the Unfinished Lives Project, which tells the stories of little known or forgotten LGBTQ hate crimes murder victims.

Officer Fitzgerald asks anyone with information on the identity of the victim or the circumstances of her death to call the Ellis County Sheriff’s Department at 972-825-4928. 

August 1, 2012 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, GET EQUAL Texas, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Lesbian teens, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, Uncategorized, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Teen Lesbian Latina Released From Hospital Care After Head Shot

Mary “Kristene” Chapa behind the wheel of her car. Released after three weeks in intensive care since a possible hate crime shooting, she assisted police in sketching the likeness of the man who attacked her and killed her lover [NBC Latino photo courtesy of Hilario Chapa].

Portland, Texas – Pink News, a well-connected LGBTQ news source from Great Britain, reports that the lesbian teen victim of a possible hate crime has been released from hospital three weeks after she was shot in the head.  Mary Kristene Chapa, 18, was attacked along with her girlfriend, Mollie Olgin, on June 22 at Violet Andrews State Park in the Texas Gulf Coast city of Portland. Olgin, who was also shot in the head, died at the scene.  Chapa, known to her family and friends as Kristene, was rushed to an intensive care facility at Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital where she was treated for grave injuries to her brain.

According to her brother, Hilario Chapa, Kristene is now in rehab and is “doing awesome.”  NBC Latino reports that Hilario, a tech sergeant in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, is astounded at the progress his little sister has made since someone attempted to kill her with a high caliber hand gun, and left her for dead in the tall grass of the state park. Hilario relates that in the last days of her hospital care, friends were allowed to visit her, and “she lit up” when she saw them. Kristene faces a long medical recovery, and just as challenging a recovery from the loss of her girlfriend, Mollie.  “She’s in neurological rehab, getting her speech and her way of thinking better,” Hilario told NBC Latino. “She also is in physical therapy to help strengthen her left side and mental therapy as well.”

Initially reluctant to let Kristene know that Mollie had not survived the attack, the family finally let her know that Mollie was dead. Police specialists and Mollie’s family were present to help break the news to Kristene. “With that support group we passed the info to my little sister,” Hilario said. “She was brokenhearted, very upset.”  Hilario went on to say how difficult it was to know how to comfort his sister. “They told us you have to let her cry. I didn’t want to tell her not to cry. But Mollie’s father (Mario) is a very good man, considering he lost his daughter.” Grateful for Mr. Olgin’s support for his sister, Hilario says, “He comes to visit her and when he does she gets emotional but he is supporting her. He wants to go visit her in rehab.”  

Portland Police released the information that Kristene was the previously unidentified eyewitness who aided them and the Texas Rangers in creating both the first and second renderings of the attacker’s likeness.  She was reportedly eager to help authorities apprehend the person who killed Mollie. The suspect is a 5-feet-8-inches tall, 14o pound Anglo male, with brown hair and a scruffy beard.  Kristene’s assistance with the sketch has prompted great public interest in finding the man who shattered the Portland community’s peace of mind, and set the South Texas LGBTQ community on guard against a possible hate crime.  Police authorities have repeatedly said that the attack did not appear random, but they have declined so far to support an anti-gay hate crime motive for the shooting. According to friends and family, Kristene and Mollie had been in a five-month love relationship at the time of the assault.

July 17, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Texas, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Teen Lesbian Latina Released From Hospital Care After Head Shot

Lesbian Shooting Survivor Helps Police ID Lover’s Killer

Mary Kristine Chapa, lesbian shooting survivor, assisted Texas Rangers artist to sketch a 2nd likeness of the killer who took Mollie Olgin’s life and left Chapa with severe brain injuries on June 22.

Portland, Texas – The survivor of a deadly attack on a lesbian couple in South Texas has recovered sufficiently to help a Texas Rangers forensic artist sketch an accurate likeness of her lover’s killer.  Mary Chapa, 18, shot in the head in the same vicious attack that left her 19-year-old lover, Mollie Olgin, dead beside her at a popular state park, has recovered her sight and her communication abilities enough to guide the artist through a refinement of an earlier sketch of their assailant. ABC World News reports that Chapa is eager to help with the arrest of Olgin’s killer. The horrifying shooting took place on June 22 in Violet Andrews State Park in the city of Portland, near Corpus Christi on the Texas Gulf Coast.

The second sketch is more detailed than the first, which was released to the public on July4.  Chapa herself asked to have the Rangers artist come to her bedside so that she could refine the original likeness she had helped construct.  The new representation shows a young Anglo make in his 20s with a scruffy set of whiskers.  Portland Police say they are searching for any information leading to the apprehension and arrest of the man who is reportedly five-feet-eight-inches tall, 14o pounds, with brown hair and beard. Police Chief Randy Wright told news media that Chapa has been making an “exceptional recovery” from the brain injury she sustained from the shooter.

Though police officials have repeatedly said this case of homicide and aggravated assault does not appear to be “random,” they are still unwilling to discuss any motive for the savagery that has shaken this Texas coastal community to its core since late June. The initial suspicions of the LGBTQ community and allies, that this was an anti-lesbian murder and assault, have only deepened.  National and state human rights agencies, such as the Human Rights Campaign, Truth Wins Out, and Equality Texas, have called upon investigators to pursue the hate crimes possibility with all the resources at their disposal. NBC U.S. News and MSNBC.com are reporting that the FBI are also assisting with the investigation. For the FBI to be involved in the investigation of a local homicide and aggravated assault suggests to some observers that law enforcement is taking an anti-gay hate crime dimension to the case with considerably more seriousness that has publicly been acknowledged by authorities.

July 15, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Equality Texas, FBI, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, Texas Rangers, Truth Wins Out | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Lesbian Shooting Survivor Helps Police ID Lover’s Killer

Lesbian Teen Couple’s Attacker Shown in Police Sketch: Breaking News from South Texas

Police sketch of lesbian teen couple’s attacker.

Portland, Texas – A police sketch of the attacker who killed a lesbian teen and left another gravely wounded was released to the press late on July 4, according to MSNBC and the Dallas Voice. The lesbian teen couple, Mollie Olgin and Mary Chapa, were shot sometime after midnight on June 9 at Violent Andrews Park in Portland, Texas. Olgin, 19, was pronounced dead at the scene.  Chapa, 18, remains under hospital care at this time.

The suspect’s likeness was developed by an unidentified witness, and according to the Portland Police Department is an Anglo male in his 20s, 5 feet eight inches tall, 140 pounds, and is described as “skinny.” Chapa, who survived the attack, has not been interviewed by police investigators because of the seriousness of her medical condition. At this point, the department is still investigating Olgin’s murder as a general homicide, and Chapa’s attack as an aggravated assault.

Police have been at pains to downplay any connection between anti-gay bias and the crimes.  LGBTQ community members have up until this point maintained a “wait-and-see” position, but remain guardedly skeptical. While Police Chief Randy Wright says that there is no evidence of a hate crime in this case, no robbery or sexual assault motive has been suggested in this brutal attack, either. As Wayne Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out, says in The Advocate, whenever LGBTQ people are killed or attacked with no announced motive, anti-gay bias must be considered a “top-tier” motive for the crime. Besen, who traveled to Portland for a recent vigil, does not mince words when it comes to the responsibility of local police to pursue hate as a trigger for this attack.

MSNBC reports that the couple, lovers for approximately five months at the time of the attack, had planned to spend time together at the popular park before going out for a movie on the night  before their bodies were discovered below an observation deck in tall grass. Witnesses said that they heard two loud cracks around midnight on that night, but did not report it since they believed the noises were firecrackers. Several people were in the area on the evening of June 9, and police have been questioning them as potential witnesses.

July 5, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Texas, Truth Wins Out, Uncategorized, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Teen Lesbian Couple Remembered in Texas Prayer Vigil

Brite Divinity School Community at prayer for Mollie Olgin and Mary Chapa in Friday’s Prayer Vigil held on the school’s Memorial Garden.

Fort Worth, Texas – Mollie Olgin, 19, and Mary Chapa, 18, were remembered Friday by a Divinity School community, and their families and friends were prayed for in an outdoor Prayer Vigil on the school’s campus. Brite Divinity School gathered in Memorial Garden to pray for the recovery of Mary Chapa who remains in intensive care after being shot in the head, and for God’s blessing upon her girlfriend, Mollie Olgin, who died from her wounds.  The horrifying attack took place on the night of June 9-10 at a Texas State Park in Portland, Texas, on the Gulf Coast.  Police have not identified a suspect in the shootings yet. The motive for the attack remains unknown, and police are downplaying a possible hate crime aspect.  The likelihood that Olgin and Chapa were randomly chosen for the assault, however, is very slim.  Portland Police have suggested that this case bears the hallmarks of a “targeted attack,” though there is no evidence of robbery, either.

Organized by Brite’s Dean, Dr. Joretta Marshall, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, Director of Field Education, and Mr. Nathan Russell, a Master of Divinity degree student at Brite, the Prayer Vigil was well attended.  In addition to the prayers of the people shared by all present, Dean Marshall read a letter entitled “Pastoral Response and Invitation: June 29, 2012,” which has been sent out by Brite President D. Newell Williams to the Divinity School’s larger network of churches, trustees, alumni, and denominational stake holders.  While the Brite Prayer Vigil is one of as many as 13 vigils for the two young women, the “Pastoral Response” is believed to be the first and only theological appeal in regards to this outrageous and senseless attack.  Expressions of support have been pouring in to the Divinity School for its initiative in carrying out the vigil, among them a word from Lynn Mulder, parent of slain gay son Ryan Keith Skipper who died in an anti-gay hate crime murder in Wahneta, Florida in 2007.  Speaking for many other families and friends of hate crimes victims, Mulder wrote: “To all who attended, you have no idea how healing it will be to these families [of Mollie and Mary].  It has been five years since vigils were held in honor of my son, Ryan Skipper.”  Mulder went on to say, “Seeing these photos helps me still today as we all grieve yet another tragic and senseless loss of life.”

Here in full is the text of the Brite Prayer Vigil appeal read at the service on Friday:

A Pastoral Response and Invitation

June 29, 2012

“We believe in a God whose mercy and justice is without end. In the name of that God, we offer comfort to those who mourn and are outraged over the vicious attacks committed against two young women, Mollie Judith Olgin, 19, and Mary Christine Chapa, 18, last weekend in a Portland, Texas park. This incident follows other acts of violence such as the racist and homophobic hate graffiti in Arlington earlier in June. Such acts perpetrated against women and men in our country because of who they are, who they choose to love, or because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and someone took offense to their existence, reminds all of us that we live in a world that is dangerous to the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of many of us. We invite churches and pastoral leaders to speak out against this kind of injustice and violence, in the name of God.

 Often in our country, the name of God is used in our communities, in our churches, and from our pulpits to condemn or – at the very least – to encourage non-support of those who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Erroneous biblical interpretation connects with fear in ways that make it difficult for LGBT persons to flourish in our churches and in our communities. Hurtful and harmful rhetoric offered by some within the Christian community contributes to the likelihood of violence and reinforces in the minds of some that silence and closets are the best options for their lives. The result is that faithful members of the LGBT community continue to live in fear in their communities and hesitate to speak out on their own behalf or on behalf of others. Members of TLBG communities often avoid our churches because their souls are damaged by the perpetuation of silence or the messages of intolerance and sometimes hate.

We invite pastoral leaders to:

·         pray for the families, friends, and communities surrounding Mollie and Mary

·         pray for all who embody a gender identity or sexual orientation that invites fear because of the potential for violence done against them

·         pray for the souls of those who committed this act of violence and those who participate and support such violence in our world

·         speak out against violence and draw upon the resources of our faith – biblical, historical, ecclesial, pastoral – in ways that clearly claim God’s desire for those within the bisexual, transgender, gay, and lesbian communities to flourish

·         urge reporters, editors, broadcasters, bloggers, and other members of the news media to report incidents like these fully and fairly, informing the public of the human, social, and moral impact of such deeds of violence and injustice

·         create space for communities to gather in deeper and more meaningful conversation about how to be open and vital spiritual homes for all

Thank you for joining our commitment at Brite Divinity School to foster the life-giving and life-affirming grace of God in our communities. If there is any way that we can support the work in your church or community, please do not hesitate to call upon us.

In the meantime, with prayers for all and with grace sufficient to continue the work of embodying justice in our world in God’s name,

Joretta L. Marshall

Executive Vice President and Dean

Brite Divinity School”

June 30, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Brite Divinity School, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Teen Lesbian Shootings Spark Urgent Calls From Advocacy Groups to Solve the Crime

L to R: Mary Chapa, 18, and Mollie Olgin, 19, gunned down in what many believe was an anti-lesbian hate crime in Coastal Texas.

Austin, Texas and Washington, D.C. – The savage shooting of two Coastal Texas lesbian teens has drawn national attention from major human rights advocacy groups, adding pressure to local law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Justice to bring a killer to justice.  On Saturday morning, the motionless bodies of Mollie Olgin, 19, and Mary Chapa, 18, were found in the tall grass of a popular bayside park in Portland, Texas, where an attacker left them sometime after midnight on Friday (for details, see coverage in Unfinished Lives Blog). Olgin died as a result of a gunshot to her head.  Chapa was rushed to a local hospital for emergency surgery, and remains in serious but stable condition. No suspect or suspects have been identified in the investigation so far. Local authorities have been slow to suggest a motive for the brutal attack. Many believe an anti-lesbian motive lies behind the brutality of the assault, however.  The couple had been in a love relationship for over five months at the time of the killing and assault, according to their friends and co-workers.

The Washington, D.C. based Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights and education group, and Equality Texas (EQ TX), based in Austin, are calling on local officials to find the killer and prosecute this case with all possible speed. In a joint statement issued today from Austin, spokespersons for these groups put their wishes in unmistakable terms.

Equality Texas issued the following statement after speaking with the Community Relations Service of the U.S. Department of Justice:

“Equality Texas joins with the Human Rights Campaign in urging a swift and thorough investigation of this crime. We applaud the Department of Justice Community Relations Service for quickly offering their assistance.  Community members are welcome to join a candlelight walk and vigil this Friday, June 29 at 6 p.m. at Violet Andrews Park, 305 Wildcat, Portland, TX 78374.”

The Human Rights Campaign has reached out to local law enforcement officials as well as the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI. HRC President Chad Griffin released the following statement:

“I want to express my sincerest condolences to the families and friends of the victims of this horrific crime. Two young lesbian women were shot and one lost her life. Regardless of the motivation behind this tragedy, we must send a strong message that violence against anyone is never acceptable. We have reached out to law enforcement officials at both the federal and local level, and hope to see a thorough investigation. These women, and all victims of violent crimes, deserve nothing less.”

June 26, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Equality Texas, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, U.S. Justice Department, Vigils, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Teen Lesbian Girlfriends Shot In “Targeted Attack”; One Dead, One Survives

Investigators near the scene of a double shooting of lesbian teen couple at a popular park. One girl is dead, the other is in serious but stable condition [Kiii News 3 image].

Portland, Texas – The bodies of two teen girlfriends were found shot in the head just below a scenic bayside overlook on Saturday. The city of 15,000 souls on picturesque Nueces Bay on the Texas Gulf Coast is reeling from the news of homicide and possible hate crimes, events that residents are having a hard time acknowledging to have happened in their quiet neighborhoods.Portland Police Chief Robert Wright announced that the victims have been identified as Mollie Judith Olgin, 19, and Mary Christine Chapa, 18.  Olgin died from her gunshot wound.  Chapa was rushed to a local hospital, and survives in what officials report as “serious but stable condition.” No motive has been determined for the shootings. KRIS-TV says that friends of the two girls maintain they had been in a quiet, closely guarded love relationship for around five months at the time of the attack.

Their friends from Ingleside High School and the neighborhood Taco Bell fast food restaurant where Olgin worked are distraught over the attack.  Samantha Garret, Olgin’s roommate, told KRIS-TV reporters, “You always hear, ‘They never did anything wrong. Why was it them? They were so innocent.’ In all actuality, Mollie and Christine were innocent. They never did anything wrong.” Olgin and Chapa had been discrete about their blooming relationship according to their close friends.  They wanted to avoid anti-gay negativity in their Coastal Texas town. While no one has yet suggested the attack was an anti-lesbian hate crime, it is on everyone’s mind as the community seeks to cope with the horror at the popular Violet Andrews Park where the couple was found by two sight seers around 9 a.m. on Saturday. Their motionless bodies lay just below the observation deck overlooking the bay, in an area of knee-high grass. Shell casings from a high caliber handgun were found at the scene, but the murder weapon has not been located. Local residents said they heard two loud cracks around midnight on Friday, but dismissed the noises as firecrackers. Kiii TV3 reports that authorities are pressing forward in an investigation of murder and aggravated assault in the case, with no mention yet of a hate crime motive.

Originally tight-lipped about the ongoing investigation, Portland Police Chief Wright admitted to KRIS-TV reporters that the case showed the hallmarks of a “targeted attack.” Investigators surmise that their assailant walked the couple down into the grassy area before shooting them.  The tall grass has frustrated attempts to recover any footprints. Added patrols are being added to area parks in the aftermath of the shootings. MSNBC reports that the friends of the couple are now concentrating on praying for Chapa’s recovery, and on collecting blood for her transfusions.  At the time EMS personnel arrived at the scene, officials say, Chapa could communicate, but no word on any account of the attack she might have given police has yet made the media.

June 26, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Texas | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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