sat in the sun to talk, which made us both happy, since
so much of what brought Eli Sanders and me to this
meeting was steeped in darkness:
sweltering July night in 2009 when Jennifer Hopper and
Teresa Butz were repeatedly raped, tortured and knifed
in their South Park neighborhood home by an intruder who
had appeared in their bedroom at 3 a.m., naked and
holding a large blade.
death of Butz, who was stabbed in the heart and died in
the street after throwing a nightstand through the
bedroom window and scrambling out.
mind of Isaiah Kalebu, the man convicted of the crimes,
dimmed by dysfunction, mental illness and evil.
the mental-health and judicial systems, poorly equipped
to monitor the sick and dangerous, or to make the
connections that could protect and save lives.
the associate editor of The Stranger, has written about
it all in his new book, "While the City Slept: A
Love Lost to Violence and a Young Manís Descent into
38, covered the case for The Stranger from the
beginning, and in 2012 won The Pulitzer Prize for
"The Bravest Woman in Seattle," a riveting
narrative lynchpinned by Hopperís unflinching
testimony at Kalebuís murder trial.
brought Hopper with him to New York when he collected
the Pulitzer from Columbia University.
story could not exist without her testimony,"
Sanders said of Hopper, "and without her having
gotten up there and having the strength and will and
capacity to speak so bravely."
recalled being "awe-struck" at her composure,
and how, at certain points during her testimony, he and
others in the courtroom were moved to tears by what
Hopper and Butz endured.
was immediately clear that something needed to be
written about it," he said.
book goes beyond the courtroom drama ó which ended
with a life sentence for Kalebu, which he is serving at
Clallam Bay ó and delves into both womenís
background, through interviews with relatives and
39, was from St. Louis, and was raised in a large,
boisterous, musical family. Her brother was a Broadway
star, her parents devoted Catholics who struggled with
was from New Mexico, raised by a single mother and her
grandparents in Seattle. She found stability and a
sanctuary in singing. Her voice was noticed early on,
and while her Broadway dreams didnít materialize, she
continues to perform.
book also chronicles Kalebuís troubled childhood. His
strict Ugandan father, who beat him. His mother, who
suffered her own anguish.
the stories of these people, and that awful, fateful
night, the book points out the flaws in the
mental-health and legal systems that allowed Kalebu to
slip far through the cracks. So far, that he made a
court appearance on another charge just days after the
attacks. He still had the womenís blood on his jacket.
And he remained free.
had a very challenging path," Sanders said of
Kalebu. "And mental-health issues. And he
encountered failure after failure of the system to help
are our systems," he said. "We can get mad at
them, but we create them. We elect the people that run
them. And we donít demand more of them.
we did, they would change."
has been some progress in the stateís Assisted
Outpatient Treatment Program, which allows those with
mental illness to remain free while also being
is similar to New York stateís Kendraís Law, which
established a clear system for when mentally ill people
decline help but show a threat. They can be monitored or
a model out there," Sanders said. "New York
has proven that it saves taxpayersí money to invest in
state has increased its investment in mental-health
treatment. But itís not enough."
stateís court system, too, is in dire need of repair,
especially the computer networks that failed to track
outrageous that in the state that birthed Microsoft,
judgesí computers canít talk to each other
effectively," Sanders said. "At the same time,
we have given Microsoft billions in tax breaks.
me, that crystallizes the backward thinking behind our
tax structure and spending priorities," he said.
"So maybe human stories bring that home,
isnít sure who will read the book beyond those in
Seattle who remember the case, criminal and
mental-health professionals; those who know and love
Hopper and love and mourn Butz; and Kalebu and his
would hope lawmakers in the state will read it,"
Sanders said. "I would love if state lawmakers
would realize the cost of slashing mental-health
resources every time they run out of money.
weíve succeeded, bad things donít happen."
this much time with the story, and the details of it,
had an impact on Sanders, who married his doctor
husband, Colin, last summer.
sleeping. Anxiety. A lingering sadness.
has not been easy," he said, "and one way that
I cope is to remind myself that there are other people
ó Jennifer, Isaiahís mother ó living with this
much more than I am. And they are getting up and moving
on in much more inspiring ways."
it has changed him, well, "That answer is going to
reveal itself in time.
still feel inside this project," he said. "I
still feel a rawness around it that can be
today, there was sun.