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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 8, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 27
Kalebu found guilty in South Park rape and murder
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Kalebu found guilty in South Park rape and murder

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

On July 1, a King County jury convicted Isaiah Kalebu of aggravated first-degree murder. The South Park murderer and rapist will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole, putting an end to a haunting chapter in Seattle - and LGBT - criminal history.

On July 19, 2009, Kalebu, 25, savagely raped and attacked 39-year-old South Park resident Teresa Butz and her fiancée for more than 90 minutes before he killed Butz and nearly killed the other woman.

When the verdict was handed down, the surviving victim quietly cried in the front row of the Seattle courtroom. Once the verdict was read, she hugged prosecutors and quietly headed into a nearby stairwell with friends.

The jury found Kalebu guilty on all counts - first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, first-degree rape, and first-degree burglary - after two days of deliberation.

According to news reports, prosecutors offered substantial fingerprint and DNA evidence in an effort to show Kalebu had broken into the women's South Park home and attacked them.

From the witness stand, Butz's surviving fiancée told the jury Kalebu repeatedly sexually assaulted her and Butz before slashing her throat and stabbing Butz in the heart. Butz died at the scene but her partner escaped and subsequently identified Kalebu.

Neither woman had ever met or seen Kalebu before. He was a complete stranger to them.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Brian McDonald told jurors that Kalebu had been calm through the ordeal and that, after raping each woman, he began to cut them.

Butz and her partner have been hailed as heroes for the ordeal. Butz's fiancée says she did nothing to stop the man because she feared for her partner's life and thought that if she tried anything he would hurt Butz. However, when Kalebu slashed her throat, she says Butz forced the man off the bed, allowing her partner to escape and live to later identify the man.

Kalebu fled the scene but was arrested a few days later after a bus driver identified him from a police bulletin.

Throughout the trial, many wondered about Kalebu's mental state. His attorneys said he was not competent to face a jury, but they did not offer an insanity defense or contest their client's ability to form criminal intent due to his mental illness.

Against his lawyers' wishes, Kalebu took the witness stand in his own defense to say why he attacked the Lesbian couple. 'I was there and I was told by my God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to attack my enemies,' he said. 'I followed the instructions by God.'

Prior to that, Kalebu had displayed erratic behavior since his 2009 arrest. He attempted suicide twice in the King County Jail. Outbursts by Kalebu during pre-trial hearings prompted King County Superior Court Judge Michael Hayden to order the 25-year-old to watch the trial remotely via a video feed.

In fact, Kalebu learned of the July 1 verdict from a closed-circuit TV feed in a nearby courtroom.

'It's a somber occasion,' said Mark Larson, King County's chief criminal deputy prosecutor. 'A verdict doesn't fix anything, but its still an important statement for our community. We're grateful, but the pain doesn't go away.'

Kalebu's lawyer, Ramona Brandes, said an appeal will be filed.

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.

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.

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