MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Travis Hawkins Jr., 18, is being charged with second-degree assault for the beating of 23-year-old Mallory Owens on Thanksgiving Day.
Owens' family and friends said given the severe nature of Owens' injuries, Hawkins should face a tougher charge. Owens' family said Hawkins attacked her because of her sexual orientation.
"Oh, yes, I know they don't approve of it. This isn't the first time he has attacked Mallory. This is the second time. The first time he attacked her with a pipe and hit her in the back of the head and on the back a few times. People stepped in to help then," said Kristi Taylor, Owens' mother.
FOX10 News wanted to know what Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich had to say about the charges and possible motive. Rich said, for now, Hawkins is being charged with second-degree assault because a deadly weapon was not used in the beating.
"Courts have said a fist is not considered a deadly weapon. So, therefore, it has to be assault second-degree charges," said Rich.
Rich said it is early in the investigation and charges could be upgraded, depending on the evidence. Rich also said her office is still trying to determine a motive.
"Some people say the motive has been a hate crime. We have not been able to confirm that at this point. But that is part of the ongoing investigation," said Rich.
If the beating is considered to be a hate crime, Hawkins could face federal charges.
"A hate crime as defined by law in the State of Alabama does not cover gay and lesbian rights. So that would be a federal charge that would need to be brought against the defendant and that would be the U.S. attorney's office," said Rich.
FOX10 News has learned Hawkins has hired criminal defense lawyer James Byrd.
"There is a lot more to the story than meets the eye," said Byrd.
Byrd said the public hasn't heard all the facts of the case.
"I find it interesting that the side who doesn't have the strength the facts goes public and tries to get public sentiment and public sway behind them by telling outrageous and outlandish stories," said Byrd.
Byrd said the suspect's family is living in fear.
"With all of the social media out there now, I hear it's on Facebook and everything else, I know that the Hawkins address has been put out and they're receiving death threats," said Byrd.
Byrd said statements given under oath, and in a courtroom will reveal more about what happened in the Hawkins home Thanksgiving night.
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