Brandon meets Sheriff Charles Laux
The original investigation was done by the Falls City Police Department. Photos showed that she had been beaten in the face and kicked in the back. The rape kit indicated that she had been raped. There was little question that this woman was the victim of a brutal sexual assault. At this point in time, the Falls City Police Department decided to bring in the Richardson County Sheriff's Office because the rape had occurred in the county outside of the jurisdiction of the small police department. Enter Sheriff Charles Laux, a typical small town sheriff who had some law enforcement training, but no experience with transsexual people. It soon became clear he did not like or trust Brandon because of her sexual orientation. The local police probably should have immediately had a warrant issued for the arrest of Lotter and Nissen, and obtained a search warrant, if nothing else than to preserve the evidence, but they did not. Brandon ended up with Sheriff Laux, who began interrogating her at approximately 3:30 PM on Christmas Day. The interrogation started with a deputy but during the middle of the interrogation Sheriff Laux took over and began the interrogation of Brandon in such an abusive and repulsive manner that plaintiff's expert, Dr. Mario Scalora, would later testify it was "like pouring vinegar in an open wound." His interrogation of Brandon was, at the least, intimidating and was later the foundation for a lawsuit involving intentional infliction of emotional distress. He concluded by asking her "why do you make girls think you're a guy." The deputy testified he was so concerned about what was going on, he left the interview room in disgust. At the conclusion of the interview, Brandon agreed to testify against Lotter and Nissen. By this time, she had been up all night, had no sleep, and was completely disheveled and distraught.
Laux refused to arrest Lotter and Nissen after the interview. Instead, he dispatched the deputy to the location to where Brandon had described the rape and he came back with corroborating evidence including beer cans, used condoms, and a pair of socks that Brandon had actually put in her pants to simulate male genitalia. Still no arrests were made.
During the next two days, the police and sheriff's office interrogated a number of witnesses, all of whom corroborated one way or another Brandon's story. On December 26, during one conversation with the mother of Lana, Linda Guitterez, Sheriff Laux referred to Brandon as an "it".
Despite the overwhelming evidence, including the local knowledge of Lotter and Nissen, the corroboration from the witnesses, the physical evidence and the photos and examination of Brandon, and Brandon's statements, still no arrests.
In the meantime, Brandon had had telephone conversations with her mother and sister, and was extremely frightened. Thinking she would be safe, Brandon then returned to Lana's home because she virtually had no place else to go nor did she have a motor vehicle or money to go anyplace else. She was under the mistaken impression that Lotter and Nissen were arrested. She was scared for her life.
On December 27, Tammy called the sheriff and advised that both Lotter and Nissen had threatened to kill Brandon if she reported the incident. Laux replied to Tammy "mind your own business, I'm doing my job." Two other calls to Richardson County by Tammy were refused.
On December 28, both Lotter and Nissen were finally interviewed by the sheriff's deputy. Lotter refused to talk, however, Nissen admitted essentially trying to "depant Brandon to get to the truth", and assaulting her. Nissen later admitted that Lotter and Brandon were in the backseat of the car out at the remote location where she allegedly was raped, but denied he did any thing. At the conclusion of this interview the deputy and the police investigator thought they should be arrested. Laux refused.
On December 29, the sheriff again wanted Brandon to come for a further interview. Because she was afraid of Lotter and Nissen, Brandon did not show up. Why she did not show up is a little unclear, but she told her sister she saw Lotter and Nissen sitting by the courthouse, and was afraid to go in.
On December 30, the deputy requested Laux contact the county attorney for an arrest warrant but Laux still refused to do so.
The matter came to a tragic conclusion on News Years Eve, December 31, 1997. Brandon had returned to Lisa's home in Humboldt and was there with Lisa, her baby, and a student named Philip Devine, a friend, who just happened to be visiting in Falls City during Christmas break. She thought she would be safer in the country than in the city. However, Lotter and Nissen tracked Brandon down to this remote location, where they brutally murdered Brandon, Lisa, and Philip. They did not harm the baby. The bodies were discovered by Lisa's mother later that morning. When the bodies were found, the authorities did not have any trouble pointing a finger at Lotter and Nissen. On Jan 1, 1998 Lotter and Nissen were finally arrested for rape (not murder).
Both Lotter and Nissen were charged with first degree murder. Nissen agreed to testify against Lotter in exchange for a life sentence and ultimately Lotter was convicted and sentenced to death. He is currently on death row. State vs. Lotter, 255 Neb. 456, 586 NW 2d 591 (1998). Nissen was imprisoned for life although he too had a lengthy trial. State vs. Nissen, 252 Neb 51, 560 NW2d 157 (1997). Recently, Nissen has written a lengthy letter to Mrs. Brandon accepting responsibility and apologizing for his grotesque actions. Lotter still maintains his innocence and the matter is working its way through federal court.
The matter drew the attention of the national media, with major articles in the New York Times, New Yorker, Playboy among others, and two movies, the documentary "The Brandon Teena Story" and the major film, "Boy Don't Cry", for which Hillary Swank won an Academy Award, a book by Aphrodite Jones, "All She Wanted", and numerous talk show.
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