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Originally published Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 2:09 PM

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South Park slaying suspect will not face the death penalty

The man accused of killing a woman and raping her partner in their South Park home last summer will not face the death penalty.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The man accused of torturing and raping two women, and killing one of them, in their South Park home last summer will not face the death penalty.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg announced Wednesday that his office will not seek Isaiah Kalebu's execution because of the man's history of mental illness.

Kalebu, 24, is charged with aggravated first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree rape and first-degree burglary in the rape and slaying of Teresa Butz, 39, and the attack on her 37-year-old partner on July 19.

According to prosecutors, Kalebu climbed through an open window at the victims' home while the women slept. He raped, tortured and stabbed the women during a 90-minute attack until Butz fought back and jumped out a window, allowing the other woman to escape, according to prosecutors and police.

Butz later died, but her partner survived the attack.

Upon announcing the criminal charges last July, Satterberg called the attack "a nightmare ... all too real." He said the attack on the two women was random.

Satterberg considered a number of factors before deciding whether to pursue the death penalty, including Kalebu's mental state at the time of the attack. Kalebu has a history of mental illness and last year was diagnosed as bipolar.

Satterberg wrote in a news release that be believes "a jury would be justified" in finding that Kalebu should not be executed because of his "documented history of mental illness."

"While we do not believe that the history of his mental illness rises to the level of a defense to the criminal charges, we do find that it meets one or more of the statutory criteria set forth in the law that constitutes a 'mitigating factor' for purposes of the capital-punishment statute," Satterberg wrote.

Kalebu's defense team declined to say what it told Satterberg's office in mitigation materials, in which it outlined why he should not face the death penalty. It's believed that his mental illness played a prominent part in the mitigation.

"The defense would like to thank Dan Satterberg for his thoughtful consideration of this case," defense attorney Michael Schwartz said. "We think he made a wise and just decision. Our client is relieved he is not facing the prospect of death."

Fellow defense attorney Ramona Brandes visited with Kalebu at the King County Jail on Wednesday to give him the news.

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Though the death penalty is no longer being considered, Kalebu still faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted.

Kalebu is also a suspect in the deaths of his aunt and her tenant — Rachel Kalebu, 62, and John Jones, 57 — in a July 9 fire at the aunt's University Place home.

Pierce County sheriff's detectives questioned Kalebu at the scene but released him.

Charges have not been filed in the Pierce County case.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

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