A Denver man has been found guilty of murder for using an AK-47 to shoot and kill a 21-year-old woman after her dog defecated outside his apartment.
Michael Close, 38, had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but a jury on Thursday convicted him in the shooting after concluding that he knew what he was doing when he gunned down Isabella Thalas and wounded her boyfriend, Darian Simon, the Denver Post reported.
Denver DA Beth McCann said in a prepared statement that she was “delighted” that her office was able to obtain justice for the victims.
Prosecutors alleged that Close had gotten into a “verbal exchange” with Thalas and Simon as they were encouraging their dog, Rocko, to relieve itself in a rock garden outside Close’s apartment on Huron Street near Coors Field on June 10, 2020.
Close yelled out the window at the couple as they urged the pup to “go potty.”
“Are you going to train that f–king dog or just yell at it?” Close said, according to Denver police homicide investigator Joseph Trujillo.
Close then grabbed the AK-47, which he had taken from a friend who was a Denver police sergeant, and fired 24 shots.
Thalas was struck in the back and died at the scene just two days after celebrating her birthday. Her boyfriend of her was wounded in the leg and buttocks.
After the shooting, Close got into his Mercedes SUV with the AK-47 and a handgun and fled, but was busted during a traffic stop later that day.
Close’s public defender, Sonja Prins, said he had suffered a mental breakdown, claiming an abusive childhood, a string of job losses, a breakup and the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to his poor mental health at the time of the shooting.
Close cried as the verdict was announced after less than a day of deliberations, as did members of Thalas’ family who attended the hearing.
Thalas’ mother, Anna Thalas, said afterward that she felt numb.
“We’ve been waiting two and a half years for this day and what happened in there just went by… almost as fast as my daughter was slaughtered,” she said through tears. “And our lives were changed forever.”
Ana later tweeted that hearing the handcuffs click “was music to my ears.”
Isabella’s father, Joshua Thalas, told reporters outside the courtroom that “there is no justice in this” compared to the amount of loss caused by Close’s “poor choices.”
Close faces a mandatory life term when he’s sentenced on Nov. 4.