LINCOLN — The victim of an alleged anti-gay hate crime continues to recover and is not yet prepared to speak publicly about what happened, the woman's lawyer said.
“My No. 1 priority is her health and safety and her emotional well-being,” said attorney Megan Mikolajczyk of Lincoln. “I don't know when she'll be ready.”
Mikolajczyk spoke Wednesday after reports that police had not ruled out the possibility that the incident involving a 33-year-old woman, a lesbian, may have been staged.
Lincoln police spokeswoman Katie Flood said Wednesday that investigators have found no evidence indicating a hoax. They also have been unable to identify any suspects in the case.
“We're just investigating all aspects, including the possibility that it's a false report,” Flood said. “It's something we do every day — we look at that possibility with all crimes, whether it's a robbery or a hit-and-run.”
The woman — whom Nebraska gay advocates have dubbed “Rainbow Jane” — told police that three masked men broke into her central Lincoln home at about 4 a.m. Sunday, bound her with zip ties and used a knife to cut epithets about her sexual orientation and gender into her arms and stomach. They spray-painted graffiti on the wall and set fire to her home.
Reports of the incident have spurred several vigils and events, as well as a fundraising effort by Star City Pride and other gay advocacy groups. A church service was scheduled Wednesday for First-Plymouth Congregational Church in Lincoln, for example, and Omaha's Heartland Pride and community volunteers have organized a vigil today at Omaha's Memorial Park.
Many in Nebraska's lesbian, gay and transgender community, and their supporters have offered charitable contributions to convey their outrage about hate crimes and to show support for the woman, said Pat Tetreault, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning & Ally Resource Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The center posted an information sheet on its Facebook page for how concerned citizens can help.
Karen Bratton-Cranford, president of Star City Pride, said her group has set up a PayPal account to accept donations. She did not know how much had been given.
Mikolajczyk said neither she nor her client had accepted any money from the fundraisers. She said she was arranging a bank account for contributions, to be managed by a third-party trustee.
No funds will be spent until after the police investigation concludes, Mikolajczyk said. Even then, the money would be used only to cover the victim's expenses from the incident. Any unused money would be donated to charity.
Outlinc, a Lincoln-based gay-advocacy group, has not yet accepted contributions relating to the event, said its president, Tyler Richard. Heartland Pride is waiting for the bank account to be established, said its president, Beth Rigatuso of Omaha.
Those organizing today's Omaha Memorial Park vigil say the uncertainty does not dampen their plans.
“We respect Rainbow Jane's right to privacy. We're also respecting the police's job to look at every angle they need to in this investigation,” said community activist Erin Anderson, who is helping to organize the vigil.
Anderson said the vigil protests numerous recent hate crimes based on gender identity and sexual orientation, including the recent beating of a lesbian teen in Kentucky, the beatings of two men in Washington, D.C., and the shooting of a lesbian couple in Texas.
Anderson and Rigatuso remain convinced that the Lincoln incident occurred.
“This is just me personally, as an individual, but I do not believe this is a hoax,” said Rigatuso, who knows the woman who made the report. “From what I know of this person, I just don't see that happening.”
Richard said he has “full faith and trust in law enforcement” to get to the bottom of it.
“Here's what I know: In Lincoln, we have a very qualified and sensitive law enforcement,” he said. “They have a history of support for the community and a willingness to bring in additional law enforcement if necessary. They will conduct the investigation in a way that gets to the truth.”
An FBI agent met with police Tuesday after Lincoln police accepted an offer of assistance, Flood said. Police reinterviewed the woman Tuesday, and crime scene technicians returned to the home Wednesday for evidence that might have been missed.
“We met with the victim again yesterday,” Flood said. “She wasn't able to provide any descriptions, other than three men, maybe white, wearing masks.
“We don't have many leads.”
She said there is no evidence, one way or another, of whether the woman's injuries could have been self-inflicted.
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