(MOBILE, Ala.) - The family of a Mobile woman badly beaten Thanksgiving night said she became a victim because she was gay. After making progress throughout the week, doctors at the University of South Alabama Medical Center released Mallory Owens, 23, Monday afternoon.
Travis Hawkins, Jr., 18, is charged with 2nd degree assault in the case. "He came around the corner and hit Mallory and blindsided her, got on top of her and started beating her," Owens' sister Avery Godwin said. According to Godwin, Owens was visiting her girlfriend for Thanksgiving dinner at the Hawkins home when the attack happened. Owens has been dating Hawinks' sister, Alex, she said.
Godwin added Hawkins did not approve of the relationship and snapped. "He's never liked Mallory because [Alex] is in a relationship with a girl, he has never liked that fact whatsoever."
The beating left Owens with a broken nose, her eyes swollen shut and plates had to be inserted in her cheeks. "When I went in there, it did not look like her," Godwin said, "I don't know what made him snap." Godwin said Hawkins had previous hit Owens with a pipe wrench earlier in the year, but never filed charges. "They had gotten past it and [the Hawkins family] told Mallory they wanted her to come over there and there wasn't going to be any problems and she goes over there and this happens."
Godwin called the attack a hate crime and feels 2nd degree assault charges are too lenient. "He tried to kill her," Godwin said, "He's out on bail right now, if he gets a chance he will kill her."
Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich said charges could be upgraded at any time. "It's a horrific crime, and unfortunately because of the laws in the state of Alabama, we can't charge assault first because for assault first you have to have used a deadly weapon and Alabama courts have said a fist is not a deadly weapon." Rich also said while her office is investigating the hate crime angle, it would be hard to get the charge because Alabama's hate crime statute does not cover gay and lesbian victims.
Equality Alabama Chair Patricia Todd released a statement saying, "Tonight our prayers go to Mallory Owens as she returns home to family. Equality Alabama has called for a full investigation and swift justice for her senseless beating. While the investigation continues one fact is clear: nothing warrants the violence she witnessed. By living her life honestly, Mallory is deserving of no less than the love of family and admiration of peers."
News of Owens' story went viral on the internet Monday, prompting calls for a hate crime investigation to be launched. National outlets, including The Huffington Post's Gay Voices
section, have dedicated coverage to the story after pictures of Owens
were posted on a Facebook set up to seek justice in the case.
U.S. Attorney Kenyen Brown has received what spokesperson Tommy Loftis called a "plea" for Brown to investigate the incident for possible federal charges. Loftis said an investigation would have to be conducted by the local FBI office. Reached by phone Monday afternoon, Mobile FBI spokesperson Doug Astralaga would not confirm or deny if the office is investigating the case, but said, "We take any hate crime allegation seriously."
Rich and Hawkins share a legal history. The District Attorney sought prosecution of the teen's father in 2011 after the man shot his son in the chest. Rich was unable to prosecute the father, she said, because the son recanted his story, telling investigators it was a misunderstanding.
The shooting ironically happened in the same home as the attack on Owens.
Because her sister had no medical insurance, Godwin said the family was working to set up an account for donations with a local bank.