Kalebu guilty of 2009 rapes, slaying in South Park home
Isaiah Kalebu was found guilty Friday of aggravated murder in the brutal 2009 attack on two women in their South Park home.
Seattle Times staff reporter
As the verdict was read, finding Isaiah Kalebu guilty on every count, a woman quietly cried in the front row of the crowded Seattle courtroom.
The woman leaned into her friends' arms as she learned that the man who broke into the South Park home she shared with her partner and raped, slashed and stabbed them — killing her partner — will never be free again.
Because Kalebu was found guilty Friday afternoon of aggravated murder for the July 2009 slaying of 39-year-old Teresa Butz, he will automatically be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole when he returns to court Aug. 12.
After the verdict was read, the surviving victim hugged prosecutors, thanked the defense attorney and quietly headed into a nearby stairwell with friends.
"It's a somber occasion," said Mark Larson, King County's chief criminal deputy prosecutor. "A verdict doesn't fix anything, but it's still an important statement for our community. We're grateful, but the pain doesn't go away."
Kalebu, 25, learned of the verdict from a closed-circuit TV feed in a nearby courtroom, where he watched the majority of the 3 ½-week trial. His lawyer, Ramona Brandes, said that he "was at peace" when she spoke with him before the verdict was read.
Jurors declined to comment.
In addition to aggravated murder, Kalebu was found guilty of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, first-degree rape and first-degree burglary.
Brandes said an appeal will be filed over Superior Court Judge Michael Hayden's rulings on Kalebu's mental competency. Since his July 24, 2009, arrest five days after the attack, Kalebu has been evaluated twice at Western State Hospital. Each time he was found to be mentally competent and returned to the King County Jail to face prosecution.
The defense had repeatedly asked Hayden to find him mentally unfit to stand trial. Hayden has said in court that he agrees that Kalebu is mentally ill but thinks that he only "acts out" as "his own perceived way of fulfilling his goals."
Prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty against Kalebu because of his history of mental illness.
Friday's verdict ends one of the more bizarre King County trials in recent memory.
Kalebu had been banned from the courtroom because of his violent outbursts. He didn't face the jury until Wednesday, the last day of testimony, and then for only about five minutes.
During his brief testimony, Kalebu offered a chilling confession: "I was there and I was told by my God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to attack enemies," Kalebu said when asked about the night of the attack. "I followed the instructions by God."
The defense never denied that Kalebu committed the crimes. Kalebu's legal team presented little to no defense in the case; Kalebu was their sole witness.
During the trial, Kalebu was hospitalized twice after what his defense attorney called apparent suicide attempts, including swallowing a small pencil.
During pretrial hearings Kalebu was wheeled to court strapped to a restraint chair and wore a green "suicide smock." At one point, he referred to the trial as a "dog-and-pony show."
The South Park attack sent a chill through the community because of its random nature.
The surviving victim told jurors that she woke up to a man in their bedroom. She said he pressed a knife against her throat while Butz was still asleep.
"My first thought was, 'This has got to be a dream.' I was just shocked," she testified.
Butz soon awoke and the man raped her.
The woman then described being raped by the man. At one point during the attack, Butz quietly told her, "I'm so sorry."
Butz managed to hurl a nightstand out the bedroom window during the attack, charging papers said. She jumped out the window, creating enough of a distraction for her partner to run out the front door.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor James Konat credited Butz's distraction as saving her partner's life.
Kalebu was arrested after DNA from the South Park crime scene was matched to a sample collected after Kalebu allegedly tried to break into Auburn City Hall in March 2008.
The end of Kalebu's trial means he could now face prosecution in a 2009 University Place arson that killed Kalebu's aunt and a tenant.
Rachel Kalebu, 62, and John Jones, 57, were found dead after an early morning fire at their house in the 5500 block of 64th Avenue West in University Place.
Kalebu had been living in the house until the day before the fire, when his aunt asked him to leave and filed for a domestic-violence protection order.
Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff's Department, said that Kalebu is a suspect in the fire investigation. According to Pierce County court records, he has not been charged in connection with the case.
Seattle Times news researcher David Turim contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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