A Denver man who used an AK-47 to kill a woman and wound a man while the couple was walking their dog near Coors Field was found guilty of first-degree murder Thursday.
Michael Close, 38, knew what he was doing when he killed Isabella Thallas, 21, and twice shot her boyfriend, Darian Simon, on June 10, 2020, as they encouraged their dog to defecate outside Close’s apartment near Coors Field, the jury concluded.
Close had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
The jury also convicted him of an additional count of first-degree murder in connection with Thallas’ death, two counts of attempted murder and two counts of assault.
Close sat with his head bowed and cried while the verdict was read. A sheriff’s deputy handcuffed him after the jury left the courtroom.
Members of Thallas’ family also cried as they heard the verdict. Ana Thallas, Isabella’s mother, said Thursday that she felt numb.
“We’ve been waiting 2½ years for this day and what happened in there just went by… almost as fast as my daughter was slaughtered,” she said through tears, standing outside the courtroom. “And our lives were changed forever.”
The jury deliberated for a few hours Wednesday afternoon and into Thursday before one juror was excused and an alternate juror seated. Deliberations then started over at about 11:15 a.m Thursday and ended around 2 p.m.
Jurors rejected defense attorneys’ argument that Close was criminally insane at the time of the unprovoked attack.
Deputy Public Defender Sonja Prins had argued that Close had a mental break before he carried out the shooting, and she pointed to his traumatic and abusive childhood, a string of recent job losses, a breakup and the COVID-19 pandemic as contributing to his poor mental health at the time.
Prosecutors with the Denver District Attorney’s Office said Close was sane during the attack. Close first yelled out his window at the couple as they urged their dog to “go potty,” then went to another room, retrieved an AK-47 he’d taken from a friend who was a Denver police sergeant, returned to the window and began shooting.
He fired 24 times, prosecutors said. Thallas was hit in the back and died instantly; Simon was shot twice. He ran from the scene until he collapsed not far away.
After the shooting, Close called his ex-girlfriend and confessed that he’d “just killed two people,” she testified. He then left his apartment and drove west into the mountains with both the AK-47 and a pistol. He was stopped and arrested that evening on Highway 285 in Jefferson County.
Isabella Thallas’ father, Joshua Thallas, said the guilty verdict did not feel like a win.
“There is no justice in this,” he said. “…There are so many losses all around. Our family, obviously, Bella’s friends lost, the community lost, even Close’s family lost today because of his poor choices.”
Close will be sentenced on Nov. 4. He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
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