American Renaissance

Burkheimer Jurors to Start Deliberating Today

Jennifer Sullivan, Seattle Times, Apr. 1

EVERETT — Yusef Jihad was the ringleader of a heavily armed gang that robbed drug dealers, according to prosecutors. He thought Rachel Burkheimer should be taught a lesson for hanging out with rivals, but when he feared she would go to police, Jihad called for her death, prosecutors said.

But Mickey Krom, Jihad’s attorney, painted a different picture during his closing argument yesterday. He said that Jihad didn’t have anything to do with the woman’s Sept. 23, 2002, slaying and that several witnesses are lying.

After hearing about three weeks of testimony, jurors will begin their deliberations today. If they find Jihad, 34, guilty of aggravated first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and conspiracy to commit first-degree kidnapping, he will be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Burkheimer, 18, of Marysville, was found buried near Gold Bar on Oct. 4, 2002. Prosecutors said John Anderson, her ex-boyfriend, shot her several times in the head after Jihad ordered him to “finish” her off.

“This is Rachel Burkheimer,” Deputy Prosecutor Michael Downes said as he held up her photo during his closing argument yesterday. “Rachel Burkheimer paid the price for running afoul of these people.”

Since the trial began, Downes has relied on the testimony of four men and a teenager charged in connection with the case to show that Jihad led their gang and made most of the key decisions on Sept. 23, 2002.

All five of those people have pleaded guilty to reduced charges in exchange for their testimony against Jihad, Anderson, 22, and John Whitaker, 23. Anderson and Whitaker will be tried later this spring.

Witnesses have said that on the day of her death, Burkheimer was lured to Jihad’s duplex under the guise that Anderson wanted to speak with her. But shortly after arriving, Anderson punched her in the face.

Downes said Burkheimer was “hogtied” and carried into Jihad’s garage. She was held hostage for several hours before being shoved into a duffel bag. Anderson, Whitaker and two other defendants then drove Burkheimer to a remote site near Gold Bar, where Anderson shot her, Downes said. Earlier this week, Jihad testified that he never caused harm to Burkheimer. He said she was a good friend, and he even warned her that Anderson wanted to hurt her.

But Downes said Burkheimer “got on the outs” with Jihad’s gang. He said it was Jihad who ordered Anderson to lure her to his house on Sept. 23, 2002. He also said it was Jihad who ordered that Burkheimer be put in the garage and, soon after, he called for her slaying.

“This kidnapping never ended until Rachel Rose Burkheimer was dead,” Downes said yesterday. “Once Yusef Jihad decided that Rachel is a threat and something should happen, it happens very quickly.”

Since the trial started, Krom has talked about Anderson’s propensity for violence and the lies told by the people who have pleaded guilty.

“When the state does deals with the devil, you can’t expect the truth,” Krom said. “(Jihad) didn’t kill anyone.”

Krom asked jurors to either acquit Jihad or find him guilty of first-degree kidnapping.

Jennifer Sullivan: 425-783-0604 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com