Young lesbian survivor of double shooting enlists author to tell story, raise medical funds

(Photo credit: Vivian Felten)

Two years after Kristene Chapa survived a horrific shooting that killed her girlfriend Mollie Olgin in a south Texas park, author Chivas Sandage is writing a book to highlight the teen's story of strength and resilience. Together, they are working to promote fundraising efforts to help cover the family's steep, ongoing medical expenses.

Kristene,18 years old at the time, was with Mollie at Violet Andrews Park in Texas when the two were assaulted, shot in the head at close range with a large-caliber gun, and left for dead. Not found until nine hours later, Mollie was pronounced dead at the scene, while Kristene was rushed to the hospital in critical condition and paralysis on her left side. Miraculously, over the next few months in recovery Kristene was able to use sign language, pens, and paper to describe her attacker for a police sketch. The devstating attack garnered media attention and community support on a national level.

At the time of the attack, Kristene was without health insurance. Now at age 20, she is only covered by Medicaid, which does not provide for the high quality, ongoing rehabilitation she needs to thrive. Her family is struggling to pay for her rehabilitation out of pocket. Although she has regained the ability to move the left side of her body, sit, and stand, she experiences continued limitations with her hand, among other areas.

Kristene's aunt set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the ongoing medical expenses that Medicaid will not cover, and for the family's cost of travel to and from TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation and Research Hospital in Houston. The fund was initially established immediately following the attack, but the Chapa family continues to fundraise In order to protect the progress Kristene's made, and to push even further towards full recovery.

Just two weeks ago, arrests were made in conjunction with the attack. David Malcolm Strickland, 27 years old, has been charged with capital murder, aggravated assault with a weapon, and aggravated sexual assault. Strickland's wife Laura Kimberly has also been arrested for tampering with physical evidence. Though the attack was never formally considered a hate crime, the local police chief noted the case had "some of the earmarks of a targeted attack"--a claim that Chivas explores in her upcoming book.

(Photo credit: Vivian Felten)

In an effort to share the inspirational story of Kristene's resilience and to bring awareness to the fundraising campaign, author Chivas Sandage has teamed up with Kristene to help raise her voice in a memoir called Because There Were No Birds: The Kristene Chapa Story. As Sandage notes on her website, "Among the growing number of tragedies caused by gun violence, too rare are the voices of victims who survive—especially young women like Kristene Chapa who thrive despite all odds."

Sandage and Kristene are currently busy at work on the memoir, but in the meantime be sure to visit Kristene's fundraising page to help support the teen and her family during her recovery.

GLAAD has been in touch with Kristene and her mom, and will continue to bring attention to their story as they work to get Kristene the care she needs.