Last week, we met Jason Owens, the North Carolina killer of J.T. and Cristie Codd, and Zebb Quinn. This week we shift the scene from the Carolinas to south Texas, where, in 2012, someone murdered 19-year-old Mollie Olgin and seriously wounded her friend, Kristine Chapa.
Mollie Olgin and Kristine Chapa
Friends and family describe Mollie Olgin as intelligent and fun, with a quirky sense of humor. She was a drummer in her high school band, but her favorite pastime was cruising around in her car. The crowd she ran with might have called themselves “crazy,” but they did not engage in risky behavior. An evening cruising might involve Taco Bell, a coffee shop, or a park, but not drinking or drugs.
Kristine Chapa was 18 in the summer of 2012 and a softball sensation in her hometown of Sinton, Texas. She and Mollie became friends. Their friendship soon developed into a romantic relationship.
An Attack and the Murder of Mollie Olgin
On the evening of June 22, 2012, Millie and Kristine planned to attend a movie. However, they missed the show and instead drove around, ending up in Violet Andrews Park in Portland, Texas, across the bay from Corpus Christi. They never came home.
The following morning, birdwatchers in the park discovered what appeared to be two female bodies near a viewing deck. First responders determined that one of the women was still alive but barely. Rescuers rushed her to Corpus Christi Memorial Hospital. At the hospital, her frantic parents learned that Kristine was alive but severely injured and in a coma.
Having the only witness to the crime in a coma hampered the investigation. But detectives did recover some physical evidence. Near the observation deck, they found an empty Monster energy drink can and five cigarette butts (neither Mollie nor Kristine smoked). Police packed the can and butts off for DNA testing.
Despite incredible odds, Kristine Chapa soon came out of the coma. Unable to speak at first, she helped investigators with hand squeezes and blinking her eyes. Within two weeks, she helped police develop a sketch of her attacker. She told them that the man raped both girls, then forced Kristine to place duct tape over Mollie’s mouth and eyes. He had her duct tape herself as well. Then he shot both girls in the head with a .45. Throughout the ordeal, he referred to Mollie as “Girl No. 1” and Kristine as “Girl No. 2.”
A Break in the Mollie Olgin Murder
When the DNA test results came back from the lab, they pointed to Dylan Spellman. Spellman lived three blocks from the overlook and closely resembled the police sketch Kristine helped police draw. He had also just been convicted of a home invasion in Pahrump, Nevada, in 2010. In 2012, he was in the Corpus Christi area waiting for sentencing in the Nevada case. Similarities between the attack in Violet Andrews Park and the robbery in Nevada strengthened the police suspicion of Spellman. He admitted being in the park that night but said he was nowhere near the observation deck. His DNA on the drink can and cigarette butts proved otherwise.
On the other hand, while the DNA evidence proved Spellman had been at the scene, it did not tie him specifically to the rapes and Mollie’s murder. Kristine’s inability to pick him out of a photo line further weakened the case, and, at 6’8”, he was a foot taller than what she initially told police.
A Strange Development in the Mollie Olgin Case
Two years passed without police making much progress in finding who killed Mollie Olgin. Then, in 2014, the Sinton Police Department obtained an anonymous letter addressed and hand-delivered to Kristine’s father.
The anonymous writer claimed to be a hitman hired to kill the surviving witness, Kristine. The letter identified a Layton, Utah, man named Christobal Melchor as the man who hired him and murdered Mollie Olgin. It also included several details that police had deliberately not made public and included a photo of Melchor. Police first moved Kristine to a safe place, then went looking for their new suspect.
Christobal Melchor proved he was participating in a National Guard training exercise in California at the time of the murder. He also recognized the picture. In its original form, it had been a photo of two men: Melchor and his former roommate, David Strickland. The two men were no longer friendly since Melchor had Strickland arrested for stealing several guns.
In 2012, Strickland lived just a few blocks from Violet Andrews Park. Testing soon linked a Glock .45 recovered from Strickland to shell casings found at the murder site. Those casings were enough for cops to arrest David Strickland. Police also found remnants of the anonymous letter to Larry Chapa on Strickland’s computer.
Justice for Mollie Olgin and Kristine Chapa?
On September 28, 2016, a San Patricio County jury deliberated for six hours before returning guilty verdicts. They convicted David Strickland of capital murder and aggravated sexual assault. Since the prosecution didn’t seek the death penalty, he received a life sentence.
Although the prosecution didn’t offer a motive for the murder, Kristine believes it was because she and Mollie were in a same-sex romantic relationship. She cited derogatory comments in the anonymous letter. Regardless, prosecutor Sam Smith decided not to charge Strickland with a hate crime.
In 2018, improved DNA testing matched a pubic hair found on Kristine’s body to the initial suspect, Dylan Spellman. You’d think finding pubic hair on a rape victim would be conclusive. Strickland’s appellate attorney thought so and filed a motion to overturn his conviction citing new evidence. The motion was denied in January 2020, at least partly because all the supposedly “new” evidence had been available to Strickland’s original defense team.
It took years of physical therapy, but Kristine Chapa’s recovery from the injuries she suffered in the attack has been miraculous. She continues to work on her recovery today but has been able to resume her life.
David Strickland is incarcerated (2023) at the McConnell Correctional Facility in Martin, Texas, near Waco. The McConnel Unit houses many of Texas’ worst and most violent offenders. Strickland is not eligible for parole.
Dateline NBC presented two episodes on this case. The first, A Texas Twist, aired on February 3, 2017. A follow-up episode, The Overlook, reprised the original report plus additional coverage of the hair evidence.
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