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Davina Anne Gabriel
4004 Troost Avenue
Kansas City, Missouri 64110
(816) 753-7816



(FALLS CITY, NB.) -- John Lotter has been convicted of three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Brandon Teena, Lisa Lambert and Phillip DeVine, as well as three counts of use of a deadly weapon and one count of burglary. The jury of ten women and two men -- all brought in from Omaha, Nb. and sequestered in Falls City throughout the duration of the trial -- delivered its verdict on Thursday; 25 May 1995.

Lotter will face sentencing, along with Marvin Nissen, who has already been convicted in the deaths of Brandon Teena, Lisa Lambert & Philip DeVine in March, sometime during the week of 24 July 1995. Lotter faces a maximum penalty of death by electrocution. Because Nissen reached a plea bargain agreement with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony, he now faces a maximum penalty of three terms of life imprisonment. Nissen also previously faced a maximum penalty of death by electrocution because of his conviction of first-degree murder in March.

Lotter's attorney, Mike Fabian, was unsuccessful in preventing Nissen from testifying against Lotter during the trial. In his opening arguments on Monday; 15 May, Fabian told the jury that the evidence suggesting Lotter was involved in the triple-slaying was circumstantial. "It is only as strong as its weakest link. It's not guesswork. Our law doesn't provide for 'maybe, could be, probably is'," Fabian was quoted as telling jurors by the *Omaha World-Herald.* Fabian also told jurors in his opening arguments that some testimony would be "gut-wrenching," but asked the jurors to not allow that to affect their deliberations. "It was a horrible crime, and I'm not asking you to put that fact aside," he stated. "What I'm asking you is to put aside the emotion that I think clouds the facts of this case . . . This gentleman over here is on trial for his life, and he can't afford to have someone decide those issues on an emotional basis."

In his opening arguments, special prosecutor James Elworth told jurors that his case would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Lotter and Nissen both committed the murders and that he would introduce evidence that showed that Lotter feared being sent to prison because Brandon Teena had identified him as one of his assailants, as well as that Lotter had bragged about having taken Brandon's pants down at a Christmas party at which Brandon was raped and assaulted by Nissen and Lotter.

On the second day of the trial, Tuesday; 16 May, Elworth called several witnesses to the stand to piece together circumstantial evidence against Lotter. Police officers and scientific experts provided testimony regarding the evidence against Lotter, including a small blue box containing an automatic pistol, seven bullets and six shell casings, a knife and a sheath, a plastic bag of dried blood, a pair of yellow work gloves and autopsy photographs.

Nebraska State Patrol investigators testified that on the night after the bodies were discovered, that they found a gun and a sheathed knife tucked inside a pair of gloves on the frozen Nemaha River, just south of Falls City. Sgt. Ron Osborn testified that the knife sheath bore the name "Lotter." State Patrol blood expert Reena Roy testified that tests at the patrol's crime laboratory indicated that blood on the blade was the same type as Brandon Teena's, but that 41% of all white people also have that same blood type. She also testified that at least one bloodstain was found on one of the work gloves, but that there wasn't enough of it to test its blood type. Another State Patrol officer testified that forensic tests indicated that the .380-caliber gun found on the ice was the same weapon used to commit the triple-slaying. Nissen began his testimony against Lotter on the third day of the trial, Wednesday; 17 May 1995, stating that he and Lotter committed the triple-slaying after plotting for six days to murder Brandon Teena. Nissen testified that he and Lotter began plotting to murder Brandon on 26 December 1993, the day after they had raped and assaulted him. "He (Lotter) said a dead witness couldn't testify," Nissen was quoted as stating.

Nissen stated that Lotter did all of the shooting, but that he stabbed Brandon. When asked by prosecuting attorney Elsworth why he stabbed Brandon after Lotter had already shot him, Nissen stated that he did so because he thought that Brandon was still alive. Asked what made him think that, Nissen answered, "She was twitching."

Nissen also testified that he had made a plea bargain with prosecutors in which they agreed that he would be sentenced to three terms of life imprisonment, that he would be transferred to a prison outside Nebraska and that prosecutors would not use his testimony against him. Nissen stated that he had previously lied to police, to journalists and to fellow inmates, but that he was now telling the truth about the slayings.

According to Nissen, he and Lotter travelled to Brandon Teena's hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska on 26 Dec. thinking that Brandon might be there. They went to three locations listed in an address book that Brandon had left at Nissen's home, but were unable to find him at any of those locations. Nissen stated that he and Lotter had planned to persuade Brandon to leave with them, then to take him somewhere else and chop off his head and hands so that his body couldn't be identified. They took along an axe, a rope and a change of clothing with them to Lincoln.

After failing to find Brandon in Lincoln, Lotter and Nissen spent the next five days drinking and plotting to kill Brandon. The plot took on added urgency after they were questioned by a police officer about the rape and assault which Brandon had identified them as the perpetrators of. "Was there any question in your mind that you were going to kill Teena Brandon at that point?" special prosecutor James Elworth asked Nissen, to which Nissen replied, "No question."

Nissen and Lotter drove to Rulo, Nebraska on 30 December 1993 to see Nissen's mother, Sharon Miller. Nissen told her that he wanted her to take power of attorney over his youngest child, but didn't tell her why. They then returned to Falls City. On their return trip, Lotter told Nissen that he knew where he could get a gun. After getting sandwiches and beer at Nissen's house, they then went to Lotter's mother's house, where Lotter procured two pairs of work gloves. Prosecutors also allege that Lotter obtained a knife at that time.

They then went to the home of Eddie Bennett, a man who they knew to have a gun. Nissen testified that Lotter went inside and got the gun from Bennett. Nissen testified that after procuring the gun, "John Lotter said that he was going to take care of Teena Brandon."

Thinking that Brandon might be at the home of Lana Tisdale, a woman whom Brandon had been dating, Nissen and Lotter then drove there, planning to try to get Brandon out of the house, but intending to kill him there if he would not leave. Nissen was quoted as then saying, "I said, 'Lotter, if you kill Brandon there, you're going to have to kill everyone else'."

Ms. Tisdale's mother, Linda Gutierres, told Nissen and Lotter that Brandon was staying at the home of Lisa Lambert. With Nissen driving, and Lotter giving directions, they went to Ms. Lambert's farmhouse in nearby Humboldt. On the way there, Nissen again told Lotter that if they killed Brandon at someone else's house, that they would have to kill everyone else there as well.

There was no sign that anyone was at the farmhouse when they arrived, so they banged on the door. When no one answered, Nissen held open the screen door and Lotter kicked the front door open. Nissen then turned on a lamp and followed Lotter into the bedroom, where they found Lisa Lambert lying in bed and her 8-month old son, Tanner, in a crib. Nissen asked her if Brandon were there, but she did not answer him. "I noticed that on the floor at the foot of the bed there was a blanket covering what looked like a person," Nissen testified. After discovering that it was Brandon under the blanket, Nissen pulled him to his feet.

Lambert, Lotter and Nissen were all yelling and the baby was crying. Nissen testified that turned around to calm the baby, and when he turned around again, Brandon Teena was lying on the bed, but that he had not heard a gunshot. Nissen then asked Lotter for the knife. After Lotter gave it to him, Nissen grabbed Brandon by the shoulders, pulled him towards himself, and stabbed him in the abdomen. Lisa Lambert then asked Nissen, who goes by his middle name Tom, "Tom, why are you doing this?" Nissen did not answer, but then picked up the baby to try to calm him. Lisa Lambert then asked for the baby, and Nissen handed him to her. She then set the baby beside her on the bed. Lotter then shot her in the stomach, whereupon "She jumped and screamed," Nissen testified. Nissen then returned the baby to his crib and asked Lisa Lambert if anyone else were in the house. She told him that Phillip DeVine was in another room.

While Lotter went to find Phillip DeVine, Nissen stayed with Lisa Lambert. Lotter returned to Lisa Lambert's room a short while later with Phillip DeVine. Nissen testified that Phillip DeVine was hysterical as Lotter brought him to the doorway of Lisa Lambert's room. Lotter then shot Lisa Lambert again.

Nissen and Lotter then took Phillip DeVine into the living room. "He was saying that he didn't see anything and he wouldn't tell anyone and he wasn't from around here," Nissen stated. Lotter told him to sit on the couch, and then shot him twice. Nissen stated that Lotter then went back into Lisa Lambert's room, and that he heard more gunshots.

Nissen and Lotter then returned to Falls City by a roundabout route, throwing their gloves, the gun and the sheathed knife over the Nemaha River bridge south of Falls City.

Defense attorny Mike Fabian attacked Nissen's credibility, pointing out inconsistencies between his various statements to police, to a *Playboy* magazine writer and to fellow inmates. Nissen admitted that he had changed his story several times, but insisted that he was now telling the truth.

On Thursday; 18 May, John Lotter's former girlfriend, Rhonda McKenzie, testified that Lotter had threatened to kill Brandon Teena a week before the murders took place. The threat took place at the same Christmas party at which Brandon was raped and assaulted by Nissen and Lotter. Ms. McKenzie, who was living with Lotter at the time of the murder, testified that Lotter told Brandon, "I ought to go out and kill you since you lied to my sister and everybody else." She further testified that after returning home at approximately 2:30 a.m. on 1 January 1994 that Lotter awakened her and said to her, "Rhonda, I need to talk with you. If anybody, if the cops come and ask you any questions, to tell them I got back between 12:30 and 1:00."

(Information for this article was obtained from the *Omaha World-Herald* and from the Richardson County (Nebraska) County Judge's office.)