They filed into Violet Andrews Park in the quiet community of Portland on Friday evening. Few in the sea of somber faces spoke. They conveyed their sorrow with moist eyes during a candlelight vigil for Mollie Judith Olgin, 19, of Ingleside, and Mary Kristene Chapa, 18, of Sinton. The young women, who were dating, were found shot in the head beneath a deck overlooking the park’s scenic shore more than a week ago.
Reverent silence enveloped the crowd, which swelled to nearly 400 during the two-hour vigil, just one of many held nationwide in honor of Olgin and Chapa. Most participants in Portland’s vigil held candles; some held photo collages of the teenagers. Some had just come from funeral services for Olgin.
A passing couple found them at the park. Olgin, a student at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, was dead. Chapa was taken to an area hospital where she recently regained consciousness. It’s unclear if police have interviewed her. On Thursday, Portland police released a description of a suspect.
The incident sent shockwaves through Portland, a small town just outside of Corpus Christi, and the nation. State and national gay rights groups have speculated that the women were shot in a hate crime. But Portland authorities have stated there is no evidence to suggest that.
“It’s crazy, it’s so senseless and frustrating,” Nellena McCabe, a Sinton resident whose daughters played softball with Chapa, said of the shootings.
McCabe described Chapa as quiet, laidback and funny, the kind of person who would do anything for a friend.
At the park, colorful flowers, ribbons, stuffed animals and cards were wrapped around posts framing the perimeter, and messages and prayers for Olgin were carved into the wooden picnic tables.
“She always had a smile,” Shelby McCabe, 16, said of Olgin, whom Chapa introduced her to at a softball game. “She was a good person.”
The Corpus Christi chapter of Get Equal Texas, a gay rights organization, held a vigil in Corpus Christi the night before. Wayne Besen, founding executive director of Truth Wins Out, a nonprofit organization that fights anti-gay religious extremism, wanted to make his presence known at the Portland vigil.
“As we’ve had more success with the gay rights movements, we’ve seen a scary reaction from our opponents,” Besen said. “We just want to ensure that the authorities don’t overlook what could be a potential motive.”