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Background of Teena Brandon

Teena Marie Brandon was born December 12, 1972 in Lincoln, Nebraska and was murdered December 31, 1993 in a run down farm house on the outskirts of Humboldt, Nebraska. She was the second child born to JoAnn Brandon, a sixteen year old widow whose first child, Tammy, was born when she was only thirteen years old, and whose husband and Teena's father, Patrick, two years older than her, was killed in an alcohol-related motor vehicle accident while JoAnn was pregnant with Teena. Teena was named after the family dog.

JoAnn did the best she could raising her two daughters, but they were classic low-income single parent family, who lived a hand-to-mouth existence in trailer parks. JoAnn went to a local community college where she studied textile design for several years. However, she was quite sickly with a variety of ailments and ultimately went on disability at a very early age. Brandon received an education through the Catholic schools in Lincoln and attended the Catholic high school, Pius X. Unfortunately, she was expelled her senior year, right before graduation, for a prank and never completed her high school education.

Teena Brandon Evolves into Brandon Teena

The most significant event in Brandon's youth was that she was a victim of incest by an uncle when she was in grade school, a fact which came to light only years later. The records show that she was abused on a regular basis from 1977, when she was five years old through 1981, when she was nine. This was never reported to her mother or to authorities. Her sister, Tammy, verified that she herself had been sexually abused by the same uncle.

Sometime after Brandon obtained puberty, she began to reject her own sex. She began dressing like a boy, cut her hair short, bound her breasts, and even put a sock in her pants to simulate male genitalia. She began posing as a boy and started dating girls. She was repelled at the thought of being touched by a male.

After her expulsion from high school, Brandon began a series of unskilled jobs including working in a lumber yard and selling vacuum cleaners, posing as a male. She was consistently short on money. She began having brushes with the law which culminated in her being charged and convicted of a felony check writing offense in Lincoln, and was subsequently placed on probation and was instructed to have psychiatric evaluation because of the transsexual ideation that she displayed. It was during this counseling that the history of incest first appeared.

In 1991, Brandon attempted suicide and was obviously very unhappy and depressed. In January, 1992, after having been charged and convicted of second-degree forgery, Brandon ended up at the Lincoln Crisis Center and was diagnosed with a gender disorder, possibly transsexualism, as well as an adjustment disorder. Records dated February 1992, indicated molestation when she was about nine years old. This was the first her mother knew of this. In April, 1992, Brandon was placed on probation by the district court, and was required to go to a mental health clinic as part of her probation. In August, 1992, Brandon again talked to her counselor about the abuse by the uncle, which resulted in her leaving the session actually physical shaken. In October, 1992, Brandon was terminated from the clinic, indicating there was no change, and in December, 1992, she was terminated from the program for failing to follow treatment. In November, 1993, Brandon was diagnosed by another counselor with transsexualism and a personality disorder.

Brandon Teena is discovered to be a female named Teena Brandon

Brandon's difficulties began on November 30, 1993, when she was arrested in Richardson County for a minor in possession charge while carrying a drivers' license of a man named Charles W. Brayman, her cousin. On December 15, 1993, Brandon was again arrested on forgery in Richardson County for stealing checks and forging the name of the owner of the checks for the purpose of buying gifts for her then girlfriend, a repeat of the conduct that got her into trouble in Lincoln the year before. Brandon, who could not make bail, was held in the Richardson County jail for safe-keeping. On December 17, Brandon gave a signed confession to the bad checks and wanted to accept blame. After being taken to jail and put in the usual jail uniform, it was discovered that the male who they thought was Brandon Teena was, in fact, a female named Teena Brandon. Brandon was then placed in the women's section of the jail. Word soon got out in the community Brandon was in fact a girl. The fact did not set well with either Lotter or Nissen who felt that they were made to look foolish. On December 18, 1993, Tammy, Brandon's sister, called the Richardson County Jail, talked to the sheriff, Charles Laux, and advised him that the person they were holding named Brandon was in fact her sister. On December 22, 1992, Brandon was bailed out of jail by Marvin Nissen with money he had received from Lana Tisdale, who was too young to bail her out, using money Lana had received from her father.

Brandon goes to Richardson County, Nebraska

Richardson County, Nebraska, is one of the poorer counties of the state, located in the extreme southeast corner of the state, about 80 miles southeast of Lincoln, on the Missouri River across from the state of Missouri. The county seat is Falls City, a town of approximately 4,800 people. Falls City had been the site of a mass murder in 1985 when a religious fanatic living in a commune, named Michael Ryan murdered a number of people including a young boy named James Thimm, whom he allegedly skinned alive. After a lengthy jury trial in 1987, he received capitol punishment, and the case is still in the court system. State vs. Ryan 233 Neb.74, 444 NW2d 610 (1989), 248 Neb.405, 534 NW2d 766 (1995); 249 Neb.218, 543 NW 2d 128 (1996); 257 Neb. 635 601 (1999). The costs of the murder trial to this small county were staggering and virtually bankrupted the county. Memories of that experience were still vivid in the eyes of the law enforcement officials of Richardson County, Nebraska in 1993.

In the late fall of 1993, Brandon violated her probation and a warrant for her arrest was issued. Fearing that she would ultimately end up in prison, Brandon, posing as a male named Brandon Teena, developed a friendship with an unwed young mother named Lisa Lambert. Lisa lived with her baby in a dilapidated old farmhouse on the edge of Humboldt, Nebraska in Richardson County. In November 1993, Brandon moved to Richardson County and began living with her new girlfriend, who assumed that Brandon was in fact a male.

After Brandon commenced living with Lisa in the Falls City area, she began associating with a number of her friends, most of whom did not work on a regular basis. Two of these were a couple of local ex-convicts, John Lotter and Marvin Nissen. Lotter had just been released from prison a short time before meeting Brandon. Nissen was also a small time convict, also in his early twenties, who was married and had children but apparently no job.

Brandon immediately took a liking to Lana Tisdale, an attractive seventeen-year-old woman, and a former girl friend of Lotter. There were indications that Brandon and Lana had sexual contact although the exact nature of same remains a mystery. Lotter didn't seem to be upset about his new male friend dating his old girlfriend. This group of friends partied regularly, did not work, and basically got into trouble. Lotter and Nissen took Brandon in as another male friend. It did not dawn on any of these people that the boy they knew as Brandon Teena was, in fact, a girl named Teena Brandon.

Lotter and Nissen

Lotter and Nissen were both what might be appropriately classified as classic ne'er-do-wells, both from broken homes, both ex-convicts, neither employed, and both used alcohol to the excess.

In March, 1987, Lotter was charged in Buffalo County, Nebraska, with escape, theft by unlawful taking and operating a motor vehicle to avoid arrest. He spent some time in prison. In March, 1990, he was then charged in Richardson County, with Class III felony escape, a habitual criminal charge, and virtually attempted to escape from jail while wearing an orange jumpsuit and shackles while visiting with his attorney. He was immediately subdued and taken back to jail. In April, 1993, Lotter was charged with flight to avoid arrest and resisting arrest when he tried to outrun a Missouri state highway patrolman. He was returned to Richardson County and in June, 1993, was incarcerated in Richardson County. That same month, Sheriff Charles Laux, took him to Lincoln for safe-keeping because he didn't want to keep him in the Richardson County jail while he was out of town, when the sole guard would be a female jailer. In other words, he was well aware that Lotter was extraordinarily dangerous and did not trust him to be alone even in jail with a female jailer unless he was there.

In May, 1992, Nissen was charged with escape and sentenced to a year for burglary and arson in Richardson County. In June, 1992, a temporary protection order was entered in Richardson County against Nissen by a family that he threatened to harm. In September, 1992, Nissen was sentenced to prison for three years by the district judge in Richardson County

In short, in December, 1993, the authorities of Richardson County were well aware of both Lotter and Nissen and knew that they were both dangerous.