Because There Were No Birds
Chivas Sandage & Kristene Chapa
On the night of June 22, 2012, a lone gunman assaulted and then shot, execution-style, a teenage lesbian couple in a suburban south Texas park. Nine hours later, bird watchers found Mollie Judith Olgin, 19, and Mary “Kristene” Chapa, 18, on a windy coastal bluff that slopes into Corpus Christi Bay. Mollie was already dead. Doctors said Kristene had little chance of survival, but she regained consciousness to find she had paralysis on her left side and impaired vision and hearing, yet remembered the gunman’s face.
As Kristene gained strength, she began to sign with her right hand—at first her only way to communicate—and helped police create a composite sketch of the gunman. She spent the next three and a half months living in rehabilitation centers where she worked hard to prove her doctors wrong. Her sense of humor, refusal to pity herself, and stubborn courage inspired many across the nation. She posted “I Take Bullets” as her tagline on Twitter, threw herself into a swimming pool to keep her therapists on their toes, and as a former MVP on her high school softball team, threw the first pitch of her team’s next season.
On June 20, 2014, the alleged gunman and his wife were arrested two days before the second anniversary of the shooting. David Malcolm Strickland, 27, was charged with capital murder, aggravated sexual assault, and aggravated assault. Laura Strickland, 23, initially faced charges of tampering with evidence. Four months later, charges against Laura were dropped. According to the D.A., evidence links David to the murder—a man who mixed with female mourners during a vigil and smirked in mug shots.
This book explores tragedy and a search for justice set against changing attitudes about sexual orientation and gender identity in the contemporary American South. As Bruce Dern recently said of Wild, this story is “about tough people.” Because There Were No Birds is about a distinct brand of tough people—South Texans. Even Mollie’s ghost is gritty. Kristene Chapa’s own writing and intimate voice weaves throughout the manuscript, telling a remarkable love story, how she continues to reclaim her body and her life, and where she finds her courage. 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.
NATIONAL MEDIA COVERAGE (recent):
MSNBC’s mini-documentary (Dec. 2014): click here
GLAAD (Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Dec. 2014 report: click here
GLAAD’s Nov. 2014 report: click here
GLAAD’s July 2014 report: click here
HOW YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE:
To support Kristene Chapa’s medical fund: click here
The seed fund is for artists’ fees for both authors and expenses covering the first 6 months of research and travel, interviews and writing. During this time, Sandage financed this book project while completing a 5,000 word article, a full book proposal package, and 1/3 of the book manuscript. BECAUSE THERE WERE NO BIRDS is sponsored by Creative Visions Foundation, a publicly supported 501(c)3, which supports creative activists who use the power of media and the arts to affect positive change in the world. All donations are tax deductible.
© Chivas Sandage and Kristene Chapa 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chivas Sandage and Kristene Chapa with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.