On May 17, 2012, Brandy Stevens Rosine lived the last day of her life. An openly gay woman in small town Ohio, Brandy would die at 20 years old. The morning began unremarkably. Brandy, a sociology student at Youngstown State University, woke up in her comfortable home of Beaver Township ready to see a woman she adored, Nichole “Jade” Olmstead. The two used to date, but after that relationship collapsed and Jade moved on to a new girl, the ex-girlfriends remained close friends. Even though Jade had girlfriend named Ashley, Brandy couldn’t resist an impromptu meeting with the girl she still suspected she might love.
“Brandy had been in love with Jade, and they were together about a year before they broke up,” said Krysti Horvat, Brandi’s best friend. “Jade then started going with Ashley, but anytime Jade needed anything Brandy was there. She had even recently driven to Baltimore to give Jade a ride to where she wanted to go.”
Brandy drove 75 miles from Beaver Township, Ohio to see Jade at her secluded family home on quiet little road in a pretty little town called Wayne Township. The woods of Crawford county, where Jade lived, shadowed each silent dirt path Brandy drove through to make her way to Jade’s isolated house. Before turning down Drake Hill Road, the street Jade lived on, Brandy sent what would be her last message to the outside world: “I have a funny feeling.”
When Brandy arrived at her good friend Jade’s house, she was greeted by not one, but two women: Jade, and her new girlfriend Ashley Barber. We don’t know if she knew how much Ashley loathed her until the first attack fell. Brandy, by all accounts a sweet and considerate young woman, couldn’t have imagined the crushing hatred that would leave her tortured, beaten, drowned, masked, and eventually buried alive in a shallow, unmarked grave to rot.
“We spoke to Ashley and Jade in the front yard and they claimed they hadn’t seen her, so we went home with more questions than answers,” Horvat told the Huffington Post.
From that point the law took over, and officials found Brandy’s car parked in the driveway of Barber’s home. Jade and Ashley now said that Brandy had stopped by but then left to get a ride from a friend down the road. Brandy’s mother noticed that Brandy’s car had been cleared out and was increasingly suspicious to discover that Barber had gone to the hospital on the day of Brandy’s disappearance because of injuries caused by “falling down the stairs.”
On May 23, the police told Brandy’s family that they had found Brandy’s corpse in a shallow grave close to Barber’s house. After examining the body, Following an autopsy, the Crawford County Coroner found that Stevens-Rosine had “multiple injuries from multiple different objects … to a large percentage of her body.” On May 24 the local police issued a statement saying- “Barber and Olmstead both admitted to their role in killing [Stevens-Rosine] and the burying of her body.”
As a gay writer covering a story about gay people, it might be tempting for me to somehow tie the killing of Brandy Stevens Rosine with homosexuality: gay politics, LGBT resources, suicide hotlines, or identity crisis. That would be a trite and somewhat tacky mistake. Not all roads lead back to gay for gay people. Gay people, or people in shorthand, are fully capable and inclined towards making decisions, terrible decisions, not on the basis of sexual deviation but of every other issue known to mankind. People who torture and kill for pleasure are people who should be removed from society regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic circumstance. They are extraordinary in their lack of empathy or consideration for anyone who lurks too close. For the most part, I’d have to say that Jade Olmstead and Ashley Barber are cruel, selfish, stupid, short-sighted, worthless human beings because only cruel, selfish, stupid, short-sighted, worthless human beings bury a girl alive for loving someone.
The one factor pushing another needle in my gut, the one connection I’ll make as a writer covering some fresh horror ripe for convenient interpretations, is the mask they used to drown out Brandy’s screams. A tool to not just scare the victim, but render her an animal incapable of begging for life with words. Horror movie fans around the world will roll their eyes, explain that getting pleasure from watching innocents be brutally tortured then slaughtered is merely another human outlet, like fucking or eating some decadent dessert. They will sit in movie theaters, alive with enjoyment at the vision of excruciating pain, content in their own flaccid incomprehension of how deep pain, that torture kind, personally feels. Those people will leave, smug to know that they are yet another example of how horror movies place ideas or create temptations. You might not experience a twinge of desire while watching Saw, or feel a seed of a plan taking root in the back of your mind.
But someone else will.