Nebraska

The murder of Brandon Teena, Lisa Lambert, and Phillip DeVine

December 31, 1993
Humboldt, Nebraska
21-year-old Brandon Teena is murdered along with 2 friends after reporting a gang rape

Teena was a trans man, a fact that was discovered at a Christmas Eve party when two men, suspicious about Teena’s anatomical sex, forced him to remove his pants. The men, John Lotter and Tom Nissen, then assaulted Teena, forced him into a car, gang raped him, then drove him to Nissen’s home to force Teena to shower. They warned Teena before his shower not to go to police about the rape of they would “silent him permanently,” and he was able to escape out of a bathroom window to flee to his girlfriend’s house. The girlfriend, Lana Tisdel, persuaded Teena to go to police anyway. A rape kit was assembled, though eventually lost, and a sheriff questioned Teena, reportedly focusing more on Teena’s gender identity than the crime, leading Teena to refuse to answer his questions. The sheriff did not arrest or question the men regarding the attack, citing a lack of evidence.

Teena had been staying with a friend, Lisa Lambert, prior to the attack. On New Year’s Eve, Teena, Lambert, and a man named Phillip DeVine who was dating Tisdel’s sister, were at home when Lotter and Nissen broke in, demanding to know where Teena was. By the end of the invasion, Lambert had been shot 3 times, DeVine had been shot twice in the head, and Teena had been shot twice — both shots causing major damage to the brain likely killing him instantly — then stabbed for good measure. All these murders were done as Lambert’s toddler daughter watched.

At trial, Nissen claimed he was only an accessory to the rape and murders and in exchange for his testimony against Lotter was given a life sentence. Lotter originally denied the claims but was found guilty and sentenced to death. He later changed his statement taking full responsibilities which Nissen used to attempt an appeal, but as he was involved, even indirectly, his appeal was denied.

The movie Boys Don’t Cry is based on Teena and his murder, though it has been criticized (especially by Tisdel) for inaccurately portraying the characters and events.

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