Hate crime vigil

Hundreds crowd the west steps of the Capitol on Sunday, July 22, 2012, in a vigil against violence sparked by a woman's account of a violent, hate-fueled attack. (TED KIRK/Lincoln Journal Star)

Police continue to investigate Sunday’s reported hate crime but say they haven’t ruled out the possibility that the 33-year-old woman staged the attack.

Chief Jim Peschong told the Journal Star investigators were not certain an attack took place, but he said Tuesday it was too early to tell whether the attack was a hoax. Police have no suspects, the chief said.

Capt. Jim Davidsaver said later the FBI had joined the investigation, and an agent was at the department Tuesday.

A 33-year-old Near South woman told police three masked men burst into her house Sunday morning, bound her with zip ties, carved anti-gay slurs into her skin and tried to light her house on fire, according to the woman’s friend, who spoke to the Journal Star on Sunday.

Lincoln attorney Megan Mikolajczyk told the Journal Star she was representing the woman who reported the crime, but she said her client did not wish to make a statement Tuesday evening.

“When she first told me about it, it seemed far-fetched and hard to believe,” said Dawn Thorfinnson, another friend who said she met the victim of the reported crime two months ago.

“It’s entirely understandable (police) are not ready to believe something this horrid would happen, and it would actually be almost better if it never did,” she added. “I would hate to find out anything that she said wasn’t actually real.”

Thorfinnson said she thought her friend was telling the truth. She is a good person and staging a brutal attack and then lying about it to an entire community would be out of character, Thorfinnson said.

“That would shock me. I know enough about (her) that I know this is not at all something she’d be capable of doing.”

According to Thorfinnson, the woman’s attackers painted a message on her wall telling her to stay away from children.

The woman was seen at a gay pride event earlier this summer lip-syncing to a song while a child danced in a tutu.

During the festivities, the woman was honored, Thorfinnson said. She wanted to champion tolerance and make the world a better place for future generations of gays and lesbians.

“It’s really sad she was attacked for being with kids when it’s the children she’s really focused on,” Thorfinnson said. “That’s why she wanted to do any event during Pride where we’re raising kids in a world of acceptance and tolerance instead of hate.”

Supporters have set up several fundraisers to help the woman, and well-wishers donated money for the woman’s recovery in various ways, Thorfinnson said. They include donation jars at several Lincoln Blockbuster stores; a fundraiser at The Q, a Lincoln gay bar; and websites of such LGBT organizations  as Outlinc, Star City Pride and Heartland Pride.

“It’s absolutely fantastic so many people have stepped up,” said Tyler Richard, president of Outlinc. Richard declined to give a dollar figure, instead referring the Journal Star to Mikolajczyk.

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Reach Jonathan Edwards at 402-473-7395 or jedwards@journalstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/LJSedwards.