Current Work


Because There Were No Birds

Chivas Sandage & Kristene Chapa

IMG_8639_photo by V. Felten

Kristene Chapa at Violet Andrews Park two years after the shooting (photo by V. Felten)

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.


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


To support Kristene Chapa’s medical fund: click here

To support this project’s seed fund:

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.  



IMG_8658_photo by V. Felten

The overlook at Violet Andrews Park, May 16, 2014 (photo by V. Felten)


IMG_8602_photo by V. Felten

Kristene Chapa, May 2014 (photo by V. Felten)


Kristene Chapa (10/2014)

Kristene Chapa (10/2014)


© 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.

12 Thoughts on “Current Work

  1. Hollie Johnson on June 21, 2014 at 2:36 pm said:

    Kristene has been an inspiration to all of us. I don’t know her personally but we have a friend in common. I have prayed Kristene and the friend that we have in common since it has happened. I have watched her grow into a young lady against all odds.

  2. Cheryl Pleasant on June 21, 2014 at 7:30 pm said:

    Kristene is my neighbor. Just from the little i know about her i can tell she has a great love for her family. I am greatful God that she is doing as well as she is .She is such an inspiration. Reminds me that no matter whatever hardships you face if you remain strong and hold to Gods unchanging hand. He’s just around the corner to turn the situation around and prove he was there every step of the way.

  3. David Mauldin on June 21, 2014 at 8:34 pm said:

    thank you for your courage

  4. Anonymous on June 21, 2014 at 8:54 pm said:

    Words can’t begin to describe the hell these 2 girls went through. I along with thousands in the community are SO very happy that suspects have been arrested in this case. Prayer for you Kristen & for Mollie that her soul rests in peace.

  5. margo mccall on June 21, 2014 at 9:01 pm said:

    Such a strong and amazing your lady to overcome such a tragic thing in life. I believe in her strength for herself and others. Prayers are always going for her and Mollie family

  6. tiffany flores on June 21, 2014 at 9:33 pm said:

    Amazing. .. your everything keep moving forward not letting anything stop you…

  7. Marisa - CC TX on June 21, 2014 at 10:01 pm said:

    There is soo much evil in this world. What happened is beyond tragic. If I didnt believe in miracles before you are a true testament of one. Keep fighting. Keep living. That is what you are showing soo many of us.

  8. Anonymous on June 22, 2014 at 12:24 am said:

    So much hate in the world I this is tragic and I pray for both families and hope she keeps on with her recovery she’s an inspiration and should be so very proud of herself

  9. Vicki on June 22, 2014 at 9:14 am said:

    Kristene you are awesome and courageous…keep up the good work!

  10. Anonymous on June 22, 2014 at 9:14 pm said:

    You are an inspiration to girls with female partners. May Molly RIP and may you continue to be a super courageous young lady that you have proven to be. God works miracles and may this person that caused you’ll harm pay for what he did.♡♡

  11. Anonymous on June 22, 2014 at 11:01 pm said:

    Thank you for sharing this story. Im going to share this with my daughter in law and in return she will share it with her friends

  12. Susie Gomez on June 23, 2014 at 2:33 pm said:

    You are an inspiration to be able to hold your head up high and able to live with such a positive mind. I know god is with you 24/7 and gives you strength each day to overcome this horrible tragedy. Rest assure that Molly is watching over you also and that justice will be served to this sick minded s.o.b. May the soul of Molly forever rest in peace .. You are a courageous young lady and never fear God and Molly are always with you. God bless you and your family and to the family of Molly…I will forever pray daily that this ahole will pay and suffer. daily.

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