A frail-voiced Simon Bahta pled not guilty by reason of insanity to murdering his 3-year-old daughter and ex-girlfriend Monday at Alexandrias courthouse.
Alexandria police found 27-year-old Seble Tessema and the former couples 3-year-old daughter, Eden, dead in Tessemas West End apartment on April 11, 2010. Both of their throats were slit and Tessema was stabbed 40 times, authorities said.
Police arrested Bahta, 35, also known as Simon Asfeha, in New York later that month after a national manhunt.
Nearly a year later, the defense’s case rests on Bahta was psychotic at the time of the slayings. Public defender Melinda Douglas used the gruesome crime scene to claim her clients innocence Monday.
The degree of violence especially to that child raises the question of insanity, Douglas told the jury in her opening statement. There wasnt really a reason for it and thats why its insanity the Commonwealth wont be able to explain to you the why.
The prosecution used the same graphic crime scene to portray their case to the jury. Deputy Commonwealths Attorney Krista Boucher evoked pools of blood and Edens throat slit the bone in her opening statement.
Hard forensic evidence and witnesses would prove Bahta was a sane and jealous man guilty of both murders, Boucher said.
Bahtas lawyers will prove several years of mental illness stemming from his forced conscription into the Ethiopian army as a 14-year-old during the Eritrean-Ethiopian War, and culminating in a custody battle over Eden, Douglas said.
A teary friend and brief roommate, Mahlat Samual, testified in the case as the first witness. She was with Bahta in the days before the slayings and heard him arguing with Tessema on the phone.
Im either going to die or you guys are going to die, but somebodys got to die, she remembered Bahta saying.
Judge Lisa Kemler is presiding over the trial, which is expected to run at least through the end of the week.