Jury wants two life sentences for selfish killer

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Simon Bahta flared up in anger last Thursday at Alexandria Courthouse as a jury found him guilty of killing his 3-year-old daughter and her mother in April of last year.

Go to hell, Ive done what I want to do, Bahta snapped at Judge Lisa Kemler after hearing the jurys decision.

Jurors recommended two life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole for the first-degree murders of Seble Tessema, 27, and the former couples daughter, Eden. The jury tacked on 20 years for forceful entry into Tessemas South Reynolds Street apartment before Bahta killed his family.

Deputy sheriffs led Bahta out of the courtroom as he became incensed upon hearing the verdict, cursing and blathering and speaking of Eden as if she were still alive.

Im not going to give you my child, Bahta said. Its as simple as that. Im not going to give you my child.

Bahta, a 35-year-old Ethiopian refugee, arrived at Tessemas apartment for a scheduled visit with Eden a little before 10 a.m. on April 11, 2010. Rather than waiting outside for a neighbor to walk his daughter downstairs, Bahta ascended to the 14th-floor flat and slit the throats of his daughter and her mother, according to testimony.

The motive was jealousy and selfishness, prosecutors said.

Bahta, also known as Simon Asfeha, wanted custody of Eden and to be with Tessemma as a complete family, according to testimony. But a record of domestic violence and other misdemeanors caught the attention of Child Protective Services, which cut short his visits with Eden. He called CPS and the court system the enemy, condemning them for his actions.

The defendant pled not guilty by reason of insanity earlier in the week but the testimony of doctors who treated him over the last 10 years was not enough to convince the jury he was legally insane.

All of this discussion of mental instability doesnt get to the root of a much deeper problem, said deputy prosecutor Krista Boucher. [Bahta] is frighteningly selfish. 

With the help of Bahtas testimony, the commonwealth portrayed a man unwilling to let his family live, unless it was with him. Prosecutors maintained the brutal crime was premeditated.

It was jealous anger when he made the most selfish decision a human can make, Boucher told the 14-person jury.

Police arrested Bahta in New Yorks Chinatown with a backpack containing pictures of Eden and Tessema more than two weeks after he fled Alexandria. He told an detective there that he was the big winner because the courts never got Eden, Commonwealths Attorney Randy Sengel said.

Its always been about you, hasnt it, Mr. Bahta? Sengel said before resting the prosecutions case.

He did not seek the death penalty, though the case could have qualified for capital punishment, Sengel said said.

When youre talking about a capital murder case and the possible imposition of a death penalty, one of the factors thats considered is the prior criminal history of the defendant which in this case we felt it was relatively insignificant.

Bahta will be officially sentenced May 26. Kemler has the authority to reduce the jurys recommendation but cannot increase it.
    

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