Photo provided by the Denver Police Department
In the span of just two minutes, a 9-year-old Denver boy lost his entire immediate family.
His mom and dad, Althea and Joseph McDaniels, lay dead on the first floor in their Bear Valley home. His 11-year-old sister, Christine, was dead upstairs with gunshot wounds to the head.
The family was slated to move to Mississippi shortly to be closer to relatives. Instead, according to police and prosecutors, Bustaman Kartabrata tricked the family — his family — into letting him into the house on May 23, 2019, and opened fire on his stepson, his stepson’s wife and his granddaughter.
“Instead they were brutally murdered, shot over and over and over and over,” prosecutor Ashley Beck said Wednesday in opening statements in Kartrabrata’s trial.
After nearly three years of delay, Kartabrata’s trial began Tuesday in Denver District Court, where he faces three first-degree murder charges in connection with the deaths of the McDaniels. If convicted of the murder charges, Kartabrata will be sentenced to life in prison.
Prosecutors outlined their evidence Wednesday morning.
They have eyewitness testimony from the 9-year-old boy who survived by fleeing the home when gunfire broke out and running to a neighbor’s apartment for help. The boy in a police interview identified Kartabrata as the shooter and said Kartabrata was married to his grandmother, according to Kartabrata’s arrest affidavit. The boy, now 12, is expected to testify in the trial.
Investigators also collected security footage from a neighbor’s house that showed Kartabrata go into the McDaniels’ house with his wife and come out a short time later. Video showed Kartabrata walk back into the McDaniels’ house at approximately 9:29 that night and walk out about two minutes later. The video also showed a boy flee the house, sprinting down the driveway, while Kartabrata was inside
Beck said Kartabrata returned to the house and said his wife had left her purse inside. When the McDaniels let him inside, he opened fire with a handgun fitted with a silencer, Beck told the jury.
When police tracked Kartabrata down at his home a few hours later, they found six suitcases packed in the front room and smaller bags that contained $30,000 in cash and passports for Kartabrata and his wife, who was Joseph McDaniels’ mother, Beck said.
But prosecutors don’t have one thing: an alleged motive.
9-year-old who escaped shooting that killed his family describes chaos after grandfather opened fire, affidavit shows
Denver police arrest suspect in connection with shooting deaths of mother, father, 5th-grade daughter
“The evidence will lay out a very clear picture of a man who came to the McDaniels’ family home with a gun, a silencer and a ruse to brutally murder with no apparent motive,” Beck said.
Kartabrata’s defense attorneys did not offer any contradictory evidence in their brief opening statement but urged the jury to not let sympathy or bias sway their decision-making.
“I want you to listen to the evidence with an open and skeptical mind,” public defender Sarah Welton-Mitchell said.
The trial was delayed repeatedly as Kartabrata underwent competency evaluations and treatment to restore him to competency.
The trial is expected to last a week.