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

Anti-Gay Violence with a Side of Waffle Fries: A Comment on Matthew Paul Turner’s “Five Reasons the Church Failed” on Chick-fil-a Appreciation Day

Dallas, Texas – By all reports, Mike Huckabee’s Chick-fil-a Appreciation Day was a success in “Big D” and around the nation.  Beaucoup Church folk stretched around the block to show some love to Dan Cathy’s corporate bottom line, and munch on some fast food chicken–the storied “Gospel Bird” gobbled at every church supper throughout the South.  Matthew Paul Turner, the popular Christian blogger (5,000+ subscribers) responded by writing a thoughtful post entitled “5 Reasons Why the Church Failed Yesterday.”  You can read the post in its entirety by clicking here.  In the aftermath of Wednesday’s effort to show Cathy, Huckabee, and CFA Corp some love by the conservative Christian Right, otherwise known as the Republican-Party-at-Prayer, Matthew Paul speaks to the head and the heart of right-of-center, salt-of-the-earth supporters of CFA, and seeks to prick their consciences (or at least raise their consciousness a bit). As a gay man and a Christian, an ordained Baptist minister and seminary professor, I must tell you, I was moved by much of what Matthew Paul had to say. His opening words for Reason Five were especially impressive to me. Matthew Paul writes:

“Yesterday’s hoopla surrounding CFA did nothing to prove that Christians don’t hate gay people. Oh I know that most Christians will say, ‘I don’t hate gay people!!’ But did supporting CFA Appreciation Day prove that?”  Matthew Paul then said, “Trust me, I understand that most people who ate chicken sandwiches at CFA yesterday did not do that as an act of hate. I get that. And that’s cool and all, but did the act of going out of your way to CFA prove that to be true? Do you think that the GLBTQ communities believe you? Would you, if you were gay, believe you?”

Yet, even as I read the good words on Matthew Paul’s blog, I still could not get the perpetual violence done the LGBTQ community in the name of God, the Bible, and the Church out of my mind. Nor could I remain silent about the specter of violence egged on by faith-based bigotry that lurks behind most every anti-gay hate crime in America. So, here is the short reflection on the “5 Reasons” post that I sent to Matthew Paul:

“Thought provoking and generative post, Matthew Paul. But the larger point to me is that the pogrom against LGBTQ people (many of them LGBTQ people of faith, too!) is going on all around the half-million or so ‘chicken Christians’ who are simply, idly standing by and letting it happen while they eat. 2011 saw the largest number of anti-gay murders in US history according the NCAVP (National  Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs) report. In Texas, in the space of barely six weeks, three lesbians of color have been violently attacked, and two of them are dead. The decimation of LGBTQ people is going on apace, with killers quoting the Bible and right wing religious leaders as they do it. And the good people (I really mean that, in regards to many CFA supporters) of the church are bystanders silently permitting the killings to go on, munching away. I am an ordained Baptist minister and a gay man. As I contemplate the complicity of the church in the slow rolling decimation of our fellow Americans, I believe I have a visceral understanding of the Gospel verse, ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11:35).” 

Christians in Austin, Texas, have called on all their Facebook and Twitter friends to show their faith on August 8 by making a $10 donation to a local food bank. Hold the chicken, and hold the waffle fries, please. That seems to me to be in keeping with what Jesus would have us do to show some real Godly love in action, so I will be joining my faith-filled Austin friends by sending my bucks along to the Cathedral of Hope food pantry in Dallas.  But I will also be pursuing a mission of conscience beyond that.

If you, gentle readers, believe you see an “agenda” in my response to CFA Appreciation Day, and in my addendum to Matthew Paul Turner’s “5 Reasons” post, then let me hasten to borrow the words of “our dear friend and prayer partner,” Dan Cathy of CFA, who famously said, “I plead guilty.”  I do have an agenda, an authentic gay agenda, the only so-called “gay agenda” I know anything about, one that has been influenced and shaped by the simple WWJD faith of my youth.  My agenda is that the faith-based bystanders who look idly on while women, men, and youths are bashed, bullied, and killed because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender variance will finally awaken, and take responsibility for their merciless silence–to the end that all Jesus’ followers raise their voices and act until the senseless violence stops!

~ Stephen V. Sprinkle, Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas,
and Theologian-in-Residence of Cathedral of Hope, Dallas, Texas

August 3, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Brite Divinity School, Bullying in schools, Cathedral of Hope, Chick-fil-a, gay bashing, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian teens, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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 Attacked “Just For Being Gay” in Louisville

Teenage Lesbian victim of brutal hate crime attack showing her split lip and knocked out teeth. Her jaw was broken in multiple places by three adult males yelling anti-gay epithets [WAVE 3 News image].

Louisville, Kentucky – A 16-year-old lesbian and her two young male friends were viciously attacked by men shouting anti-gay slurs as they beat the teeth out of the girl’s mouth.  Early on Tuesday morning, the young Hornback brothers, 13 and 15, who had accompanied their lesbian friend to a local store, desperately called their mother as the attack commenced.  They told their mother that a group of four “grown-ups” were harassing their friend for being gay, and then cut the call short when one of the men struck the girl. Ms. Andi Hornback told WAVE 3 News that she could hear one of her sons scream as the adult men knocked the young lesbian to the ground, broke her jaw, and repeatedly kicked her in the stomach as they yelled hatefully.  Police are now investigating the violence as a hate crime that has shattered the peace and calm of the Wyandotte Park community in Louisville.

One of Ms. Hornback’s sons suffered a concussion as he jumped in to rescue his friend. With her voice trembling from emotion, Ms. Hornback told reporters how she felt when she heard her child cry out in fear and pain.   “I can’t even describe it to you,” she said , “I’m getting ready to cry, hearing my child scream and know that they were hurt and they were scared and I couldn’t get there fast enough.”  EMS personnel and police were already on the scene by the time Ms. Hornback arrived.

The young lesbian who was the focus of the attack was lying on the pavement with blood gushing out of her mouth. Speaking on behalf of the girl’s family, Brenda Hickerson detailed her injuries for WCSH 6 News: “Her jaw is broken in several places and she has to have a plate put in her jaw. She has teeth knocked out of her mouth and she has scrapes and bruises.” Shaking with frustration and anger, Hickerson said, “She was on the ground with blood just pouring out of her face. These grown men put her on the ground, kicked her in her stomach, kicked her in her face and punched her in the face and kept going until a bystander yelled stop and called 911.”

The four adults in the group that attacked the teens included two white men, one African American man, and a woman whose race has not been identified in the press.  The Hornback boys say that the woman played no part in the attack on their lesbian friend.  Brenda Hickerson believes that the woman’s conscience will plague her until she comes forward.  Hickerson says she is convinced this was a vicious hate crime. “Otherwise, you are saying that this is right to hate,” she said, “and it’s just not right!” 

In an ironic twist, Louisville churches figure prominently in the background of this anti-lesbian attack.  The adults pressed their attack on the teenager in front of two Wyandotte Park area churches.  The pastor of St. James Church, a self-described non-denominational and evangelical congregation, has decried the crime.  According to other clergy, the young lesbian who was the focus of the attack is a member of a local Baptist Church that openly welcomes and affirms gays and lesbians.

Hickerson, wearing a rainbow PRIDE shirt in her television interviews, said she has no doubt as to why this attack was so brutal. “This was a hate crime,” Hickerson said, “There were hate slurs and this was not a robbery because they didn’t take anything from them.” She continued, “I think she was targeted for being a strong lesbian young girl.”

July 19, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay teens, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Kentucky, Lesbian teens, LGBTQ, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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