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Photographs by
Jana Birchum
Fuller dropped out of high school after failing his freshman year twice. Counselors at Out Youth, an Austin support center for gay youth, have related stories Fuller told them about being stuffed in his locker by fellow students at Johnston High School as part of being ridiculed for being "gay." And he wasn't making much progress studying for his General Educational Development certificate (GED), at least partially because he suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (A.D.D.). Add to this equation that Fuller had just begun injecting black-market female hormones from Mexico -- to soften his appearance and aid in body development -- without any doctor's supervision, and the image of a boy on a serious downward spiral emerges.

It wasn't as if Fuller's demise occurred overnight. Indeed, he lived out his confusion for at least three years in Austin, and even reached out for attention and help, which he found, at least to some degree, in the places where he felt most "at home": Out Youth, a nonprofit support group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and gender-questioning youth; the Forum nightclub at Fourth & Congress and the now-defunct Area 52 dance club on Colorado Street, where he performed in the weekly drag shows; and on the streets with other gay and transsexual youth, where he turned tricks for money.

From these three very different social scenes, Fuller drew support. Most who were close to him, however, agree that the troubled young man did not receive the attention and guidance he needed. These same friends are at a loss as to what else they could have done.

The murder was brutal. APD Commander Gary Olfers described it as "sadistic" to the Austin American-Statesman on January 13, the day Coria was arrested. Performing Fuller's autopsy, Travis County Medical Examiner Dr. Roberto Bayardo cataloged 14 blows to Fuller's head and at least 60 knife wounds. "It was an overkill," said Bayardo after reviewing the autopsy report in his office in early May. "But that is typical in these sexual killing cases. This is what happens in crimes of passion."

It was a murder that received scant media attention, but which galvanized the activist gay community, and specifically the Lesbian Gay Rights Lobby of Texas, into a march, as part of their show of support for several anti-discrimination bills pending before the 76th Legislature -- including the James Byrd Hate Crimes Act. The Byrd Act died in the Senate just before session's close.

In all, Donald Scott Fuller was a kid with a lot on his mind. At 18, the baby-faced blonde was living much of his life on the streets, punctuated by brief stays with friends at their homes and in the motels of South Congress Avenue, like the Village Inn and the St. Elmo-tel. Although his family declined to be interviewed by the Chronicle, his father, Don Fuller, was quoted in the Austin American-Statesman shortly after his son's death, saying that "We just knew he wasn't happy unless he dressed up.

-- He's been that way all of his life. We always knew he was different, and we pretty much accepted it, but we didn't allow it around the house." According to Fuller's friends, it was the family's uneasiness with Fuller as Lauryn that made him not want to spend much time at home. "She would tell me," says Dixie, "'I just don't want to go home because I'll have to hide who I am.'"