South Park murder trial begins

Jun 7, 2011

The details are heartbreaking. A lesbian couple subject to unspeakable horror after a stranger breaks into their home in the middle of the night. The high profile case happened in 2009 in the South Park neighborhood of Seattle. Now, the man accused of rape and murder, Isaiah Kalebu,  is on trial.

King County deputy prosecutor Brian McDonald told jurors that July 9, 2009 began full of hope and excitement for Teresa Butz and her partner. They were planning a commitment ceremony and had been out  looking at wedding dresses. They’d thought about going to a party, but decided against it and instead went home to bed. 

Late that night, Butz’s partner woke to see a man standing next to them holding a knife.

"He first raped Teresa.  She prayed out loud while this was happening.  Her partner could hear her say,'Oh Father, help us.' " McDonald told the jury.

Meanwhile, McDonald says,Jennifer prayed silently.

"She thought if she just went along with it and put up with it and put up no resistance she could get out of it alive," he said.

As the man wielded his knife, the women pleaded with him not to hurt them.

But, he did, attacking them both.

Teresa Butz was mortally wounded. But, before dying she managed to throw a table through a window, scaring the intruder off and likely saving her partner’s life. 

As Butz's partner was taken away in the ambulance, witnesses said she called out  “I love you Teresa.”

One of the unusual things about this trial is that the defendant isn’t in the courtroom. He’s been barred, at least temporarily, for yelling profanity at the judge and other court personnel.

Although he’s been deemed competent to stand trial, Kalebu has a history of mental illness.

As Eli Sanders wrote in an investigative piece in The Stranger in 2009, 16 months before the South Park rapes and murder, Kalebu was admitted to the psychiatric ward at Harborview. The diagnosis?  He was at an imminent risk of hurting others.