being compared with Matthew Sheperd murder, even though cops say no evidence is a hate crime
The murder of a woman as she walked with her lesbian companion through a city park in the small south Texas town of Portland has prompted vigils nationwide, and has focused new attention on violence against same sex couples.
Randy Wright, the police chief in Portland Texas, which is just off the Gulf of Mexico coast on Corpus Christi bay, said today that a motive for the crime has not been established.
"Information from family and friends indicates the victims were engaged in a same sex relationship," Wright told Reuters. "However, there is no current evidence to indicate the attacks were motivated by that relationship."
Visitors at the park Saturday morning found the body of Mollie Olguin, 19, in a grassy area below a scenic overlook in Violent Andrews Park Saturday morning. Nearby was her companion, Mary Kristene Chapa, 18. Olguin was pronounced dead from a gunshot wound, and Chapa was rushed to the hospital where she is listed in stable condition.
Evidence released by police indicates that the shooting took place just before midnight Friday night, and the couple were not discovered until about nine hours later.
Michael Diviesti, who heads the Texas gay rights group GetEQUAL said the women had been together for about five months, and he says whether police determine it was a hate crime or not, it is time to 'heal the wounds inflicted on us by the intolerant.'
"Whether or not it was a hate crime, it was a crime against humanity, and for that reason alone we must stand up as a human family and support all who are in mourning," he said. "When something like this happens to one of us, it happens to all of us."
Vigils are scheduled around the country to draw attention to violence against lesbians and gays. Cleve Jones, who was an associate of murdered San Francisco supervisor and gay rights advocate Harvey Milk announced plans for a vigil today in San Francisco, and said on Facebook he is 'encouraging communities around the country to gather locally.'
Wayne Besen, who heads the activist group Truth Wins Out, compared the shooting of the women to the 1998 murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard.
"The more victories the LGBT movement racks up, the more vicious our opponents become," he said.
Portland, which bills itself as 'the land of let 'em play until dark,' has a low crime rate and the metro Corpus Christi area has no history of anti gay activities. While Chief Wright says he does think the two women were 'targeted' and the crime was not random, he says people should not jump to conclusions about the motive.