This is a long-form article about the 1993 fake murder of Brandon Teena, the infamous trans-gendered Nebraska citizen. Please buckle up and prepare as I first walk you through the basics, then get we will get neck deep into the fakery.
What would you say if I told you that there was a fake, framed murder case even more shocking than the now infamous Making a Murderer case? What if I told you that this case also featured a man of limited capacity who had been obviously framed by local police, except this guy is now sitting on Death Row and has no support movement behind him? Well, sadly…this is the truth. This case is such a case.
In this article, I will take you through the infamous murder of Brandon Teena (along with Lisa Lambert and Phillip DeVine) in Humboldt, Nebraska on December 31st, 1993. Within 6 years, this murder was made into an Oscar-winning Hollywood film called Boys Don’t Cry featuring a Best Actress performance by Hilary Swank as transgender hero Brandon Teena.
Below, not only will I show readers that this murder was laughably fake, but I will also show you the whereabouts of the supposed “murder victim” in their present 2020 circumstances under the Witness Protection Program. Since we are dealing with Witness Protection, I will be using a pseudonym for the new, present identity of Brandon Teena. Please try to respect this person’s privacy…if you use the breadcrumbs in this article to find this person, you do so at your own risk.
The real details of this case are lacking the shiny aspects worthy of a Netflix series, a la Making a Murderer. The reality here is even darker. Main characters who are clearly lying about what they know. Local police who are obviously framing a man who they regard as less than desirable. A troubled local girl who dies mysteriously…perhaps too mysteriously. A man on Death Row. The execution of an innocent man by the state is the gravest possible crime of justice. If it can be proven that this murder is fake, we must do everything we can to advocate for this doomed man, John Lotter.
Although I realize it is a lot to ask, it would probably help readers a great deal to first watch the 1998 documentary The Brandon Teena Story. This documentary was my beginning point as I first had suspicions into the Brandon Teena case. There is a limited, shortened 50-minute version of this documentary is available for free on YouTube (link below). The full version is nearly 90 minutes, and available for purchase on Amazon Prime Video.
What stands out the most upon watching this documentary is the obvious lies coming from many of the key players when retelling the story. Nearly every single key player is lying through their teeth. In the same way Making A Murderer was full of such obvious lies (and it wanted you to see them), the puff-piece documentary called The Brandon Teena Story is packed full of lies, except they are not expecting you to see through them. A body language expert would have a field day with this documentary. As an amateur student in the study of body language myself, I know that I had a field day with it. Apparently, rural residents of Nebraska caught up in a fake murder case are not the best folks to tell lies, because you will see many hilarious moments of obvious lies here.
Many moments are so patently obvious as lies that you will be able to spot them without any training whatsoever. Cases of ludicrous embellishment abound. Outright lies are plentiful. Facts of the case directly contradict much of the information given in these interviews, and I will point out as many such contradictions as I can. For now, it may help for readers to simply watch the documentary.
Some of the funniest highlights include former “lovers” of Teena clearly embellishing the seriousness of their relationship while fumbling to explain how they failed to notice the lack of a penis during intimacy. In another comical scene, a local Sheriff claims he got into a juvenile “Nuh-uh, Yeah-huh” match when outing Teena to the locals as being biologically female. Letters from Teena in jail sound like a C-grade middle school English assignment. All in all, most interviews read as highly scripted and full of lies.
My theory of this case hinges closely upon making sense of the body language of the people interviewed in this documentary, and the key moments where it is clear that we are seeing lies or scripted segments. Being able to fit all of these lies and embellishments into a single framework is my over-arching goal. Over time, I have built a theory of this case which coalesces all of the key lies, liars, and anomalies into one cohesive explanation with a pile of evidence in support.
Below, as I outline the major players, I will also rank each person on a 1-10 scale for how much they are lying (1 being perfectly honest, 10 being all lies). I will also point out any critical anomalies and lies in each person’s testimony.
The Official Story
The official story is that a biological female named Teena Brandon was born in 1972 and left her hometown of Lincoln, NE in the fall of 1993 to relocate to the nearby rural town of Falls City, NE. It is said that Teena did this both to get away from some check forgery legal trouble in Lincoln, and also because he wanted to live his life exclusively as a man. Teena is said to have inverted his name from Teena Brandon to the now infamous Brandon Teena and moved to rural, conservative Falls City finally presenting only as a man.
Within about a month of making friends in Falls City, Brandon Teena was said to have been in a relationship with another biological female, a local girl named Lana Tisdel. It is said that Lana Tisdel was unaware that Teena was a biological female…she believed that Teena was her boyfriend.
In December 1993, local police arrested Teena on the outstanding charges for petty crimes in Lincoln and they outed him to the whole town as a transsexual by placing him in the female section of the prison. It is even rumored that the local newspaper was made aware of this. A transsexual person living openly in rural Nebraska was completely unheard of at the time.
After this outing, Teena was sexually assaulted within days during a Christmas party at Lana Tisdel’s house. Some guests at the party demanded to know Teena’s true gender, and he was forcibly de-pantsed in a bathroom…exposed as being a biological female. From there, it only got worse. Later that night, Teena was raped on a roadside by two local petty criminals named Tom Nissen and John Lotter. These two men had only recently met each other, but both were both acquainted with Teena through locals bars and hangouts, and both had attended the Christmas party at Lana Tisdel’s.
After the Christmas Day events, Teena was then said to be murdered via gunshot in the early morning hours of December 31st by these same two men in order to “keep her quiet” about the rape. Two unrelated people were murdered in this same event: Lisa Lambert (a friend of Lana Tisdel) and Phillip DeVine (the boyfriend of Lana Tisdel’s sister Leslie). The murder occurred at a small farmhouse occupied by Lisa Lambert, a single mother and friend of Lana Tisdel. It also just so happened that Phillip DeVine, an African American man, was also at the farmhouse that night. He was visiting his girlfriend Leslie Tisdel from Iowa for the holiday period, and is said to have been at the Lambert farmhouse that night because of a fight with Leslie. Brandon Teena was said to be living at the Lambert farmhouse due to the drama caused by the Christmas Day assault and rape.
This is the official story, and how three relative strangers are said to have ended up murdered in the same farmhouse.
The Main Players
Liar Score: 5 (Mixed)
Reasoning: While Teena’s whole existence in Falls City was based on a sort of lie, the only actual recording we hear of him in the documentary is the testimony given about the rape. This testimony is 100% legitimate. Even John Lotter in a recently recorded “Truth” video (where he adamantly maintains his innocence on the murder) still admits that the rape did occur. Lotter claims to have been unaware that Teena had been threatened into the sex that night by Nissen…but it is key information that the rape actually did occur. This matches with the legitimacy of the police interview given by Teena after the rape. Teena’s recall is exactly right and what you would see out of a genuine rape victim. This is the only actual audio we get of him in the whole documentary, and it is truthful.
Brandon Teena recalling the rape to police is the sole legitimate element in the entire case. I do believe that Teena was actually assaulted and raped.
Liar Score: 8 (Big Liar)
Reasoning: Lana’s body language is some of the worst, and her story is full of lies. The impetus behind her lies seems to be supporting the “Romeo & Juliet” type of love story she knew was coming from Hollywood. She also clearly wants to make herself look innocent regarding her attitude of Teena’s gender. The Hollywood film makes Lana out to be Teena’s sole supporter…even after Teena was exposed as a biological female. The truth is not so kind. Interestingly, the documentary also treats Lana as the same sort of hero. The 1998 documentary seems to have been an intentional precursor to the 1999 film. Lana has some of the most comical embellishments in the whole documentary (“here’s that face, that face that I seen [sic] all the time”).
In truth…after it became known that Teena was biologically female, Lana was nothing like the supportive character we are fed in the movies. In Lotter’s Truth video, he says that it was actually LANA with Tom Nissen in the bathroom during the infamous de-pantsing incident on Christmas. Teena is known to have told others that she was afraid of Lana after Christmas, and this makes no logical sense if Lana is telling the truth.
Lana clearly stretches the extent of her closeness with Teena and the extent to which she approved of Teena’s gender issues.
Liar Score: 1 (Truthful to a Fault)
Reasoning: Lotter is said to function at the level of a 9 or 10-year-old, with an IQ of 67. He is articulate enough that you really would not suspect anything wrong if you met him, but he is definitely incapable of complex lies. He comes off as a straight shooter, even when his words end up making him look bad or guilty. The documentary and Hollywood film played this up significantly. They turned Lotter into the main boogeyman. Reality does not fit with this portrayal. Lotter has told an extremely consistent story from his trial through his Truth video, and he shows virtually no signs of deception. It is questionable how capable he would even be at advanced deception. Lotter is clearly one of the few people telling the truth.
In his Truth video, he does not simply pin everything on Nissen. He claims that both he and Nissen were not even in Humboldt the night of the murder and they simply woke up one morning arrested by police and questioned about a murder. If true, this would exonerate both he and Nissen. Why would a person who was lying also exonerate the man who had put it all on him? His words are not those of a con trying to pin everything on someone else. He speaks directly from memory and shows no real signs of deception. His story from the documentary to his later Truth video is actually extremely consistent.
https://www.justiceforjohnlotter.com/john-s-story (The aforementioned Truth video. Hard to follow unless extremely familiar with the case.)
Liar Score: 10 (Pathological Liar)
Reasoning: The polar opposite of John Lotter. Tom Nissen is a pathological liar by his own admission. He signed a sworn affidavit saying that his testimony at the Lotter trial (which put everything on Lotter) was a complete fabrication. If you would read the account he gave at trial, this is no surprise. None of it made any sense or fit with the crime scene. Nissen has now admitted that he lied and put everything on Lotter. Local police went along with this because John Lotter was an infamous petty criminal of the Falls City area. They knew him as nothing but a troublemaker.
This ties in with Nissen’s body language in the documentary, where he is often angrily defensive and evasive about the truth. Nissen is truly a snake who did everything he could to throw John Lotter under the bus to save his own skin. In Lotter’s Truth video, Nissen is the main culprit behind both the sexual assault and the rape (even though this video also says that neither of them were present for the murder). Lotter also makes clear that Nissen intentionally put him in the wrong place at the wrong time…suggesting they visit a place where police would later allege Lotter stole the murder weapon (a .38 gun).
Nissen’s behavior after the rape screams of a man doing anything to save himself…including joining forces with police to put Lotter away.
Critical Story Anomalies:
Note: Listed in chronological order.
Police did not immediately seek charges or arrest of Nissen and Lotter in the days following the Christmas Day sexual assault, but they just so happened to proceed with an arrest of the two men within hours of discovering the bodies of the New Year’s Eve murders. This arrest was said to be for the sexual assault. That is one heck of a coincidence! Police have never explained what caused them to change their mind about arresting the pair on that particular day. It is important to note that these men were not arrested for murder…they were arrested that day for the Christmas Day sexual assault. And this was within mere hours of the discovery of the bodies in the New Year’s Eve murder!
Even if the men were considered prime suspects in the murder, two such events would not play out ON THE SAME DAY. At bare minimum, the murder scene needed to be processed, identifications made, evidence collected, and so on before police would proceed to making such a big arrest. Even if they considered the two men were the prime suspects, these two events happening on the same day is a joke. John Lotter describes the arrest from that morning as a major bust…something which would have been planned in advance by the police. One hell of a coincidence, there, that it just happens to be planned for within hours of the murder being discovered!
This is one of the most obvious faults in the story and it is too perfect to be an accident. The two men were immediately arrested at this moment because they were known to be the frame-up targets. It had to be them, and them alone. I will make the case below that the New Year’s Eve murders were a fake event solely for the purpose of putting these two men away for good (Lotter especially).
Police claim to have recovered the murder weapon (gun, knife, and gloves belonging to John Lotter) on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve AFTER the men were arrested for assault. Not before. AFTER. You might have suggested that the rationale for their arrest was the discovery of these weapons, but no. This unbelievable cache of weapons was said to be discovered in a random public location within hours of the men being arrested for assault. Another unbelievable coincidence! The cops just so happen to have had a bust planned for these two men on the same day as the murders, and within hours of picking them up for assault, evidence was magically discovered in a random public location that made them the obvious suspects for the murder. Amazing sequence of events, don’tcha think?!
The collection of weapons had been tossed from a bridge south of Falls City. Note: Humboldt (the murder site) is northwest of Falls City. Police claimed they just had a hunch to search the bridge south of town, and lo-and-behold…the murder weapon had been chucked from the bridge! Another amazing coincidence!
Yes…a murder in a town northwest of Falls City. We had better check the bridge south of town! Since the river was frozen over for the winter, the weapons just so happened to be sitting out in plain sight. Yet another instance of (literally) unbelievable luck. The police just happened to have a hunch to search a completely illogical location and magically discover a collection of all the murder weapons in one package, and with the murderer’s name literally written on it, no less! And all of this happened within mere hours of having coincidentally arrested the men for assault on the same day within hours of the discovery of the murder. Nothing strange here in this sequence of events, nope…!
Michelle Lotter (John Lotter’s sister) went to the courthouse on New Year’s Eve to check on her brother after hearing he had been arrested. She asked about whether he had been arrested in connection to the murder she had heard about, and the response she received was concern from the police officer that she had even heard about a murder. Strange! This reaction is very unusual and implies the murder was a tightly controlled event.
Neither of Lisa Lambert’s parents tell a story that makes any sense. Lisa Lambert is the friend of Lana Tisdel who was the main occupant of the farmhouse. Her mother is said to have found the bodies at the farmhouse, yet this woman claims she walked into the tiny one-room farmhouse to tend to the crying infant before she noticed any of the 3 bloodied corpses. Her own daughter was said to be sitting on the adjacent bed in plain sight with her eye socket blown out, but this woman claims that she first tended to the crying infant before she noticed anything amiss. And keep in mind, she also would have immediately walked past the corpse of Phillip DeVine upon first entering the farmhouse. Her story is simply not plausible. The dynamics of the house completely contradict her story. It feels as though she is covering for how the bodies were discovered. Perhaps she was fed a story to tell (“I heard the baby crying…”).
Take a look at the photos of the murder scene below and tell me that it is possible someone could have entered this house without immediately noticing dead bodies. The farmhouse is made up of one main living room (where Phillip DeVine was hunched over dead) and two small bedrooms immediately connected to this main living area. Lisa’s mother claims that she entered this house out of concern for her daughter not showing up for work. She claims that heard a crying infant, entered the house, and tended to her crying grandchild in the bedroom before noticing any of the several corpses strewn about the house (including her daughter’s). This is simply not believable.
That is the illogical nature of the story of Lisa’s mother, but her father tells an equally illogical story. Lisa’s father claims to have come to the scene of the crime and simply asked “Is Tanner [his infant grandson] okay?” and when he got an affirmative answer, he left as instructed. In the extended cut of the documentary, he goes on to tell an elaborate story about his work on the hydraulic system of a car after leaving the scene. It is just incredibly strange. Did the man have no concern for his daughter? His sole question, “Is Tanner okay?” does not make any sense for a man driving up to a huge police presence at his daughter’s farmhouse. Apparently, Lisa’s father did not care in the slightest whether his daughter was dead or alive.
Both of Lisa’s parents, separately, have deeply questionable accounts of their presence at the scene of the farmhouse. I place Lisa Lambert’s parents under the highest possible level of suspicion for the nature of their lies. Their daughter was said to be living as a single mother with an infant at the tiny farmhouse, and I wonder whether these parents did not approve of their daughter having a child out of wedlock. This is just a theory, but it is a fair one. Lisa’s parents are almost certainly omitting their true knowledge of what occurred here.
Lotter and Nissen are said to have taken a strange route out of Humboldt south and into Kansas so that they could enter Falls City from the south. If they had given this much thought to their exit from Humboldt, then why did they wait until they were back in Falls City to ditch the weapons over the bridge? Why would they have thrown them from a bridge onto a river that had frozen over? My theory is that the police completely fabricated this route back to explain the presence of the ditched weapons at the bridge south of Falls City.
Anomaly 7 (MAJOR)
Teena Brandon comes up in people search records (Intelius/BeenVerified-type sites) as having an alias of Barbara Kramer. Who is Barbara Kramer? She just so happens to be a female stripper of Lincoln, Nebraska, is the approximate same age, sports a “butch” appearance, and critically…shares all of Teena Brandon’s previous addresses in identical time-frames! Their database records are absolutely identical up to the point of the murder and beyond. It is literally as though the records have been clumsily duplicated. After the fake murder, it is as though Barbara Kramer carried on with her life while Teena Brandon is marked as dead. Incredible!
This seems to be a system flaw made possible by this case happening during the infancy of the internet and such public databases. In this day and age, it would never happen that such a cover identity would get mixed in with the original person’s identity. However dating back to 1993, it is very possible that this slip-up is indeed a major revelation. How else can you explain these two people being listed as aliases for one-another, and seeming to have lived an identical life?
Barbara Kramer is alive and well. She has an active Facebook page, has been featured in Hustler magazine. How do you explain that she was based out of all the same places and same times that Teena Brandon was listed? There is only one possible explanation there!
Pictures of these two women are close enough in age and approximate appearance that Barbara Kramer absolutely could be Teena Brandon with a little bit of plastic surgery. It is no doubt a standard practice of the Witness Protection Program to give their witnesses plastic surgery upon entering the program.
See the slideshow below for a collection of database records that I have redacted. All redactions are of Barbara Kramer’s real name, or a misspelling of it. Each of these screenshots are from different public databases. They all show Teena Brandon as a known alias of Barbara Kramer. Some of them even show both Teena Brandon and Brandon Teena as aliases of Barbara Kramer. The age varies quite a bit, and whether or not Barbara Kramer is listed as deceased varies quite a bit. Clearly though…these are the same two women.
Phillip DeVine is literally a ghost in the public records. Both Teena Brandon and Lisa Lambert are found in the Social Security Death Index. Phillip DeVine is not. Nobody knows where he is buried. He has a listed grave site, but past researchers have shown that he is not buried there. Only a few sketchy pictures exist of Phillip DeVine, and they are not consistent. His absence in the SSDI and the mystery of his final resting location strongly indicate that he was a false identity. This is further supported by the fact that we know virtually nothing about him other than the fact that he was visiting from Iowa and worked in a Federal government capacity (Job Corps).
The US Marshals are admitted in The Brandon Teena Story documentary as having done the interrogations on Tom Nissen after the murder. This makes absolutely no sense for a local murder. The US Marshals are a federal law enforcement agency and have absolutely no reason to have been involved in a local Nebraska murder. What do the US Marshals happen to operate, though? The Witness Protection Program!
I would like to point out that my theory about Witness Protection was made in this case prior to my realizing that we just so happened to have a pair of US Marshals in plain sight in the documentary. Talk about two puzzle pieces coming together…
After the rape, transgender male Brandon Teena was basically a sitting duck. His secret being out, living openly as trans-gendered in deeply traditional rural Nebraska was basically a death sentence. The local police reached out to the Federal US Marshals about the possibility of putting this trans-gendered man into the Witness Protection Program. They feared that their outing of Teena as trans-gendered might make them responsible for what could happen, so they took it upon themselves to get Teena a place in the Witness Protection Program. The US Marshals were brought on and worked with local law enforcement to develop the plan for how to pull this off. As we often see in cases like this, local law enforcement likes to kill multiple birds with one stone. They already had Lotter and Nissen with the allegation of sexual assault, but they were going to make sure that these two petty criminals went away for good.
If someone is going to be fake murdered, they love to make sure that some local petty criminal is the obvious fall guy for it. This is exactly what we saw with Making a Murderer. Find a guy who is a criminal to his core. Pin it on him.
For local police, Brandon Teena’s rape complaint against Tom Nissen and John Lotter was exactly the impetus they needed to get rid of these two criminals once and for all. They knew that Teena could not possibly stick around in rural Nebraska, but they also knew that rape charges are very hard to prosecute. They needed something better. They offered Teena an opportunity to get out of Dodge through Witness Protection in exchange for his cooperation in making sure Lotter (and Nissen) went down for good.
This would be done through a fake murder.
After the murder was faked, Teena was given to the US Marshals. After some therapy, plastic surgery and time to let things die down, she chose a life as a stripper in her old hometown of Lincoln, NE. The name she lives under now, Barbara Kramer, was swapped out in the records, but it left a trace of itself in the public databases. What are the odds that a listed alias for Teena Brandon would so closely resemble her in age, appearance, sexual preferences, and share perfectly identical previous addresses? Impossible.
Barbara Kramer is Teena Brandon.
There is even a man who runs several of the Nebraska strip establishments as a “friend” of Barbara Kramer whose appearance screams “handler”. Those two claim to have dated on Facebook even though Barbara Kramer is now married to a woman. I would wager that this strip club operator was actually Kramer’s handler, or just some kind of Fed responsible for overseeing her.
As for what happened to Lisa Lambert, this is the one missing link to the story. Phillip DeVine seems to have either been a totally fake identity, or a man who was given a chance to disconnect himself from the Falls City locals with no strings attached. DeVine was said to be in a Federal government job in Iowa, Job Corps, so perhaps they used the event to fake his death and get him into Intelligence work. For Lisa Lambert? Her parents inscrutable reaction to her death tell me that she may have been disowned for having a child out of wedlock. Perhaps Teena Brandon let it slip to Lambert that she was being offered a place in Witness Protection, and this forced the US Marshals to offer Lisa a place in the same program. Who knows? Lisa’s parents’ cold reactions make me deeply fearful for Lisa and what might have happened to her.
All told, the most unfortunate aspect of this case is the framing of John Lotter and his place on Death Row for a murder that never even took place. Even if he holds some kind of responsibility for a rape, he has paid his debt to society several times over and he deserves to be released for time served.
The case against Lotter was always weak, and Nissen’s (now recanted) testimony was really the only thing against him. The murder weapon was said to be stolen by Lotter between Christmas and New Year from a friend’s house. Lotter stopped at that friend’s house for just 15 minutes and was in the presence of many witnesses in that time. He also could not have logically known that there was a gun in the house. Who suggested that Lotter stop over and visit this friend? Tom Nissen. It also just so happens that Nissen insisted upon staying in the car during this visit while Lotter went inside. This visit fits perfectly with Nissen hypothesized work as an agent of the police between Christmas and New Year’s to frame Lotter.
After all, it is Lotter on Death Row…not Nissen.
With Phillip DeVine clearly not being dead according to Federal records and Teena Brandon clearly still being alive under a pseudonym, it is obvious that the whole murder never took place. The evidence was always flimsy, and the story was always full of holes. There is no reason we must fundamentally accept that the murder actually took place when all available evidence suggests that it did not.
In the end, I find myself thinking back to John Lotter. Apart from being a heavy drinker who liked having a good time a little bit too much, Lotter seems like a decent guy to me. Any debt he owed to society was paid back long ago. If Nebraska executes John Lotter, they will be committing a grave sin against nature. Not only because his IQ is 67, but because the murders he would be executed for never took place.
This story has been long forgotten by the public mind, but revisiting it shows the whole story to have been a complete fabrication. The presence of the US Marshals in the 1998 documentary is especially bold and stupid. This sloppiness even made its way into public records, where we see Teena Brandon clearly intertwined with a living alias. The sloppiness is astounding. The lies are shameful. The justice is backwards.
If you are in a position to advocate on behalf of John Lotter or you know anyone who would be, please share this article. The execution of Mr. Lotter would be a mockery of all human justice, and a crime to haunt Nebraska for all eternity. He deserves better. Please help him if you can.