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Suspect in South Park murder arrested July 24
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Suspect in South Park murder arrested July 24

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

Seattle police arrested Isaiah M.K. Kalebu, 23, near Magnuson Park shortly after 6 p.m. July 24. The arrest happened less than 24 hours after police released his name and photograph and asked for the public's help in finding him.

In what police described as "one of the most brutal crimes they've seen in some time," Kalebu is accused of entering the South Park home of a Lesbian couple and attacking the women. Teresa Butz, 39, was killed and her partner, a 36-year-old woman, was injured in the 3 a.m. July 19 attack. The victims managed to get outside after the attack, where Butz died in the street as neighbors tried to aid the women.

Before she died, Butz told a neighbor, "He told us if we did what he asked us to do, he wouldn't hurt us. He lied, he lied."

According to the slain woman's brother, Tim Butz, his sister sacrificed herself to save her partner, who was released from Harborview Medical Center Monday.

On Saturday, King County District Judge pro-tem Karli Jorgensen ordered Kalebu held on $10 million bail for investigation of first-degree murder, attempted-first degree murder, two counts of rape and one count of burglary.

As word of the brutal attack spread through Seattle, homicide detectives identified a suspect early in the week, describing him as a "person of interest." Then, late last week, the SPD announced they had probable cause to arrest Kalebu for murder. Police released a surveillance video of the suspect and a photo of Kalebu as well as a photo of his pit bull.

Around 6:30 p.m. Friday night, police received a tip from a Metro Bus operator who had knowledge of Kalebu's description. The driver contacted the Seattle Police Communications Center with a possible suspect sighting at NE 65th Street and Sandpoint Way in North Seattle.

"North Precinct patrol officers saturated the area and searched for the suspect," said Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, a spokesman for the SPD. "Officers located Kalebu and his dog in Magnuson Park."

He said Kalebu surrendered to officers without incident and was taken to Seattle Police headquarters for questioning. Ultimately, Kalebu was booked into King County Jail for investigation of murder, he said.

It is reported Kalebu was with his pit bull at the time of apprehension. According to SPD, the dog has been released to the care of Seattle Animal Control.

Early this week, information surfaced that the Washington State patrol crime lab matched DNA evidence from the South Park crime scene to evidence found at a 2008 Auburn crime scene. Seattle police investigators noted that the man in the Auburn video, taken during an attempted break-in at Auburn City Hall on March 27, 2008, matched the description and police sketch of the South Park murder suspect. It's unclear why Kalebu was trying to get inside Auburn City Hall.

Currently, Kalebu is a suspect in an arson investigation, but has not been charged, said Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff's Department.

A VIOLENT HISTORY

Kalebu had been living with his aunt, Rachel Kalebu, 65, and her tenant, 57-year-old John Jones, in her University Place home. Earlier this month, Kalebu's aunt asked him to leave and filed for a domestic-violence protection order. The next day someone set fire to her house, killing her and her tenant.

In her protection order, Rachel Kalebu said that her nephew had "threatened to harm me many times" and had struck her. According to court records, she said he "commands me and orders me around as if I am his junior & [I] would like to have peace in my house."

In March of 2008, his mother, Denise Kalebu, contacted the King County Sheriff's Office to report her son had threatened to kill her. She told investigators that she told her son to move out on March 29, 2008, because he wasn't taking medication prescribed the day before to control his bipolar disorder. A doctor at Harborview Medical Center had prescribed the medication after Seattle police officers brought Kalebu to the trauma center for involuntary mental commitment.

He was charged with domestic violence felony harassment and domestic violence malicious mischief in April 2008 for the alleged threats against his mother.

According to court documents, when Denise Kalebu ordered her son out of the house, he said, "Enjoy your last day on earth." The documents say she then grabbed a pair of scissors to protect herself and Kalebu responded by saying, "You're gonna die & you're no match for me & those scissors are no match for me or my dog."

Court documents say that when Kalebu left the house, he flashed a 6-inch knife at his mother.

Deputies said they arrested Kalebu the following day when he showed up at his sister's White Center home and threw a rock through a window. After his arrest, he was sent to Western State Hospital for a mental evaluation, where he was found competent to stand trial. That is when he moved into his aunt's house.

According to court testimony, as Kalebu's trial date neared, his mother told King County prosecutors that she would not testify against her son. Prosecutors offered Kalebu a chance in April to plead guilty to reduced charges: two counts of misdemeanor harassment and malicious mischief.

Kalebu withdrew from the plea deal in May because he didn't want to submit the required DNA sample. Unbeknownst to Kalebu, his DNA was already on file with the state.

According to King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott O'Toole, during the July 25 bail hearing, the DNA found in the South Park home along with other evidence linked the man to the rape and murder scene. O'Toole requested the high bail amount and said his office may seek the death penalty for the South Park attacks.

SPD officials still maintain the attacker did not know the South Park victims personally.

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