Something is happening at the trial of Isaiah Kalebu, something you won't read about it in the local mainstream media. The reality of a "great and ordinary day," as King County Deputy Prosecutor Brian McDonald put it, is being described. So is the reality of a terrifying night that followed.
On that warm night, in July of 2009, Isaiah Kalebu allegedly climbed through an open window in the South Park home of Teresa Butz; raped Butz and her partner repeatedly at knife-point; stabbed Butz in the heart, killing her; and then fled.
The details of the attack, as recounted by prosecutors and witnesses at the trial, are too explicit for most news outlets to print, too vivid and horrible for most people to imagine. Yet Butz's family and friends have been present at every moment of the proceedings so far, listening intently. I don't presume to know what they are thinking or feeling. But it's clear they're not shying away from the details of what happened that night.
Neither are the jurors, who were warned during the selection process that some of the material at this trial would be hard to stomach.
In some ways, the ability of everyone in the courtroom to remain present and watchful during all of this speaks to the need for full accountings—for people who are willing to look squarely, without any pre-sanitizing, at what humans sometimes do to each other, and for other people who are willing to hear the full, awful, occasionally ambiguous truth.
Not everyone needs to do this kind of looking and listening.
But for those who want to do it by proxy, here is what I've heard at the trial so far. (It comes almost exclusively from statements and allegations made by prosecutors and witnesses. Kalebu's defense attorneys put off their opening statement until after the prosecution rests, and they've been mostly silent, declining to even question a number of the prosecution's witnesses.)
July 18, 2009 was a Saturday. Teresa Butz and her partner—who has asked not to be named—spent that Saturday doing things they loved. They went on a tour of microbreweries in the South Park area, they went to see about getting Butz's partner fitted for a wedding dress (the two were planning a commitment ceremony), they considered going to a friend's party up in Marysville.
In that way that Saturday plans sometimes change mid-course, they eventually decided not to go to Marysville. Instead, they headed home to cook steaks.
They ate the steaks together. They watched a movie together. They fell asleep together.
The "next memory" of Butz's partner, according to Deputy King County Prosecutor Brian McDonald, "is that she awoke and that the defendant was in their bedroom."
He was naked. He was holding a knife. He told them: "Shut up, I won’t hurt you, I just want pussy."
Kalebu, according to McDonald, demanded the two women undress.
Butz told him she was on her period.
Kalebu said it didn't matter.
Kalebu then, according to McDonald, "raped them every way imaginable. Vaginally, anally, orally. He wasn’t wearing a condom, and he ejaculated several times.”
He was calm and deliberate. He talked throughout. And, McDonald said, "Throughout all this time, he held on to this large knife, and never did he let go.”
The women thought they would both get out alive if they did what he wanted. That's what he told them would happen. They prayed, silently and out loud, that this would be the case. They tried to comfort each other. As Butz's partner was being raped next to her, Butz turned and told her: "I'm so sorry."
Kalebu, McDonald said, told the women something like: "Chill out. It's just round one."
He then forced Butz to perform oral sex on him. He ordered her: "Swallow."
According to McDonald, Kalebu at one point wiped his penis on a pair of one of the women's shorts, leaving one bit of what prosecutors say was a large amount of DNA evidence.
The attack went on for some time, McDonald told the court, and Butz's partner "began to wonder if he was ever going to leave, so she made up a lie to see if she could put an end to this.”
She told Kalebu they had a friend coming over at 5 a.m. to take them to a wedding.
"Don't worry," Kalebu replied.
He planned to leave before then, and he appeared to know he'd be the subject of a manhunt as soon as he did.
“I know you’re going to call the police," he said, according to McDonald. "They all do. But I’ll be long gone.”
They offered him their purses, left earlier on a table in the kitchen. That wasn't what he'd come for. He took them into another bedroom in the house, where he'd apparently undressed and left his jeans. There, he reached into his jeans and pulled out another knife. Then he took them back into their bedroom.
“With a knife in each hand, he started to slash at their throats," McDonald said.
The women began to fight back.
Kalebu punched Butz, McDonald said (an autopsy later showed her three bottom teeth broken and pushed back). He stabbed Butz in the left arm. He slashed her neck seven times, one of the slashes five and a half inches long. He slashed her partner's neck. He stabbed Butz in the heart.
At one point, Butz tried to hold Kalebu off with a small metal table, then threw the table through the bedroom window, jumped out, and ran, naked and screaming, into the street where she later died. Kalebu, seeing this, began to flee, and Butz's partner followed him out of the bedroom, then turned and frantically tried to let herself out the front door.
It took some time. She was so covered in blood ("It looked like somebody had dumped a bucked of blood all over her body," Seattle Police Officer Thomas Berg testified today) that it was hard for her to turn the door handle.
Kalebu, McDonald said, "left the way he came—through an open window in the back of the house, in the bathroom.”