During a Christmas Eve party, Marvin Thomas “Tom” Nissen and John L. Lotter grabbed Brandon Teena and forced him to remove his pants, proving to Tisdel that Teena was anatomically female. Tisdel said nothing and looked only when they forced her to. Lotter and Nissen later assaulted Teena, and forced him into a car. They drove to an area by a meat-packing plant in Richardson County, where they assaulted and raped him. They then returned to Nissen’s home. Teena escaped from Nissen’s bathroom by climbing out the window, and went to Tisdel’s house. He was convinced by Tisdel to file a police report, though Nissen and Lotter had warned Teena not to tell the police about the rape or they would “silence him permanently”. Teena also went to the emergency room where a standard rape kit was assembled, and later lost. Sheriff Charles B. Laux questioned Teena about the rape; reportedly, he seemed especially interested in Teena’s transsexuality, to the point that Teena found his questions rude and unnecessary, and refused to answer. Nissen and Lotter learned of the report, and they began to search for Teena. They did not find him, and three days later the police questioned them. The sheriff declined to have them arrested due to lack of evidence.
Nissen and Lotter drove to Lambert’s house and broke in. They found Lambert in bed and demanded to know where Teena was. Lambert refused to tell them. Nissen searched and found Teena under the bed. The men asked Lambert if there was anyone else in the house, and she replied that Phillip DeVine, who at the time was dating Tisdel’s sister, was staying with her. They shot and killed DeVine, Lambert, and Teena, in front of Lambert’s toddler. Nissen would later testify in court that he noticed that Teena was twitching, and asked Lotter for a knife, with which Nissen stabbed him, to ensure that he was dead. Nissen and Lotter then left, later being arrested and charged with murder.
Nissen accused Lotter of committing the murders. In exchange for a reduced sentence, Nissen admitted to being an accessory to the rape and murder. Nissen testified against Lotter and was sentenced to life in prison. Lotter proceeded to deny the veracity of Nissen’s testimony, and his testimony was discredited. The jury found Lotter guilty of murder and he received the death penalty. Lotter and Nissen both appealed their convictions, and their cases have gone to review. In September 2007, Nissen recanted his testimony against Lotter. He claimed that he was the only one to shoot Teena and that Lotter had not committed the murders. In 2009, Lotter’s appeal, using Nissen’s new testimony to assert a claim of innocence, was rejected by the Nebraska Supreme Court, which held that since—even under Nissen’s revised testimony—both Lotter and Nissen were involved in the murder, the specific identity of the shooter was legally irrelevant. In August 2011, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected John Lotter’s appeal.