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Photographs by
Jana Birchum
Text by Jordan Smith
It's just weeks before Christmas, but outside it feels like spring. The sky is clear and bright, and there is a south wind whisking through the trees outside the Travis County Courthouse. Upstairs, in Judge John Wisser's 299th District Court, a pretrial hearing in the case of State of Texas v. Gamaliel Mireles Coria has just ended. The 28-year-old murder defendant sits next to his attorney, Robert Icenhauer-Ramirez, at the defense table, a distant look in his intense brown eyes. He doesn't show much emotion at all really, aside from recoiling nervously when several journalists begin taking notes, snapping pictures, and collecting footage for the evening news. The hearing was short, not even 10 minutes in duration, because final DNA tests the state requested last spring still aren't in. Preliminary results, though, indicate that blood found on defendant Coria's clothing and in the white conversion van he was driving on January 7 and 8, 1999, match the blood of the victim, 18-year-old Donald Scott Fuller.

Finally a trial date is set: March 16, 2000, one year and three months after the beaten and bloody body of Fuller was found barely hidden beneath some brush outside the entrance to the Tokyo Electron Corporation in Southeast Austin. There were more than 60 stab wounds on Fuller, including a two-inch-deep slashing stab wound just above the young man's rectum and a nine-inch-long slice to his neck -- the wound that ultimately killed him -- which opened him up from Adam's apple to spinal cord.

Outside the courthouse near 11th Street, two people sit on a bench, talking in hushed tones. The man is young with streakey blond hair and a baby face, the woman older and solemn, a look of distrust in her blue eyes. She is Fuller's mother, and she doesn't want to talk to reporters about her son's death. "I don't have anything to say," she repeats when asked, and to her baby-faced friend, "Is that the one that you and Dixie have been talking to?" Just then a couple holding a toddler leave the courthouse. Minutes before, in the courtroom, defendant Coria made a lilting head gesture to the same couple, hunkered in the rear of the courtroom. While the couple denies knowing Coria when asked, their claim is belied when they drive by Mrs. Fuller in the same white conversion van that her son's blood was found in. "That's the van," she says just over the breeze. It is the first time she has engaged the reporter that has been imploring her for an interview.

The murder of Donald Scott Fuller was the first of 1999 in Austin and a particularly gruesome one at that. For some reason, not much has ever been made of it -- which seems odd. How could it come to pass that a teenage boy would be brutally murdered in Austin, Texas, and no one would even ask why? The answer, though neither polite nor "politically correct," seems simple enough: By living his life openly as a transsexual woman, Fuller lived outside the parameters of what most of society considers acceptable. Perhaps for society, the easiest way to deal with something so uncomfortable is to not.