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Salt Wind Redemption: Love and Murder in South Texas

Chivas Sandage & Kristene Chapa

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. When Kristene woke in a hospital, she could not speak, open her eyes, or move her left side, but she 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.

Salt Wind Redemption: Love and Murder in South Texas 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.” Salt Wind Redemption 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 book, 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.

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