Last week, Texas teenagers Mary Kristene Chapa and Mollie Judith Olgin, who were in a relationship, were shot execution style with a large-caliber gun in a park and were found approximately nine hours later. 19-year-old Texas A&M student Mollie was pronounced dead at the scene. Kristene, 18, has since been recovering at a rate that her doctors and family call “amazing.” NBC Latino and MSNBC spoke with Kristene’s older brother, Hilario, about his sister.
That Kristene is recovering at all, considering how she was shot and the many hours that passed before she was found, defies all odds, according to her doctors. She is regaining feeling and function in her right side, though not in her left.
Hilario told NBC Latino, “the doctors say it’s too early, no one is using the world paralyzed…They say we should be so happy with her progress after 3 or 4 days. She is very strong. She survived a very tough ordeal but her recovery is coming in strides and impressing everybody.”
Kristene has been communicating with her family, who keeps round-the-clock vigil in her hospital room, through sign language (which she learned in school) and written notes. She has been asking many questions about her condition and recovery but has not revealed much about the attack.
“She knows what’s happened, but she hasn’t chosen to talk about it on her own,” Hilario told MSNBC. “We’re under the impression she doesn’t know who did it. We don’t know if it’s a hate crime.”
He added, “She’s pissed about what happened to her and I think she’s ready to get up and take off walking if she could.”
Kristene, who has also been writing down Mollie’s name, has not yet been told about her girlfriend’s death. Her brother, who had to identify Kristene’s body and unrecognizable face following the shooting, said that they do not want the news to negatively affect her recovery. It is not yet known when Kristene will be able to leave the intensive care unit.
Kristene’s family is currently without health insurance as her father, a veteran of the Iraq war, is between jobs. They have been accepting donations to cover her medical expenses.
“Seeing her strength, it gives me strength,” Hilario told MSNBC. “All you can really do is just hang onto hope and just watching her gives me hope.”
Hilario and his father had not known that Kristene is gay until after the brutal attack, though Kristene’s sister and mother knew. The Chapa and Olgin families have yet to meet but hope to soon once Kristene has progressed further in her recovery.
Hilario told NBC Latino, “She’s getting a lot of support from the gay and lesbian community. I'm proud of my sister. I have no problem with it and our family doesn't either." He added, "We just want to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else and find who did this."
The investigation is being led by local police with assistance from the FBI and has been joined by the Texas Rangers. Gathering evidence from the secluded, grassy crime scene has proven difficult so far. Along with caps from the bullets, police now have a description of a suspect given an eyewitness to the attack. The suspect, according to MSNBC, is a white man in his twenties with dark hair, standing at 5’8, weighing about 140 pounds.
On Friday, June 29, there will be nighttime vigils in Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, Albany, NY, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington state, and Washington DC. There will be several throughout Texas, including in Austin, San Antonio, Houston, and at the site of the violent attack in Portland.