Four years after surviving an execution-style shooting and sexual assault, Kristene Chapa, whose girlfriend Mollie Olgin died at the scene, has received a verdict in the trial of her alleged attacker, David Strickland.
On Wednesday, September 28, 2016, a jury found Strickland guilty of capital murder and aggravated sexual assault. Since prosecutors did not pursue the death penalty, he was given an automatic life sentence. In an interview with KRIS-TV, Chapa shared her reaction to the verdict: "I was very shocked at first. I didn't know what to expect exactly. I was hoping that they (the jury) would see all the evidence that we had and they would go our way. (It was) very emotional...I wanted to just burst out into tears."
David Malcolm Strickland, 29 years old, was charged with capital murder, aggravated assault with a weapon, and aggravated sexual assault almost two years to the day after Kris survived the horrific traumas of that night.
On a summer night in a park in Portland, Texas, teen couple Kristene, then 18, and Mollie, 19, were shot with a large-caliber gun and left for dead in a heartbreaking and terrifying turn of events. Though, tragically, Mollie did not survive that night, Kristene was found nine hours later. She was placed in intensive care due to sustained traumatic brain injuries and--using sign language, pens, and paper—was able to describe her attacker for a police sketch. The nation rallied around Kristene and Mollie by holding vigils across the country as the media closely followed the attack’s aftermath. Her supporters can donate to her medical fund to assist with her ongoing, expensive medical needs.
The day before the closing arguments, Corpus Christi’s KRIST TV reported:
Although she said it was difficult to talk about the details of the shooting, Chapa said she was not bothered by seeing Strickland in court.
When she was asked why, Chapa responded, "Because he's a coward." She went on to tell KRIS 6 News, "David Strickland put his head down and wouldn't look at me, so what does that mean to you?"
In the last two years, Kristene has regained the abilities to move the left side of her body, to sit, and to stand. She continues to undergo physical rehabilitation. At the time of the attack, Kristene was without health insurance. Now in her early 20s, 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. You can donate to her medical fund to aid the financially draining therapies, which the Chapa family largely covers out of pocket.
Kris, who is now enrolled in college, is working with a writer on a book to tell her story. Kris has also been a visible advocate, sharing her story in the hopes of helping others find comfort and support. Over the summer, she spoke at a #WeAreOrlando vigil in Corpus Christ to honor the victims who lost their lives in an attack of historic proportions at Orlando’s Pulse club.
Video courtesy of Mark Martinez & Kristene Chapa
In 2015, Kris and her mom, Grace, attended the GLAAD Media Awards in New York, where Kristene was recognized for her inspiring resiliency. She received a standing ovation.
That night, Kristene told the audience: "I just wish Mollie was here. She would have loved to see all of this, all the support from everyone. I know it's a tragedy, but it also brings a lot of people together, and shows all the great people out there that's willing to help and have good hearts."
In a 2014 digital documentary, Kristene told MSNBC:
"God loves everybody, no matter if you're gay or straight. He left me here for a reason. I have a second chance," said Kristene. "What happened to Mollie and I, I still am going through in many different phases, but I'm just grateful I'm still here. I'm going through all the struggles and obstacles, but I'm still up. I fall down, I pick myself back up."
Watch and share that segment below:
For years, GLAAD has worked closely with Kristene to bring the nation's attention to her story of recovery and resiliency.