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Title: Baranyi Found Guilty

Source: Eastside Journal (www.eastsidehournal.com), November 5th, 1998

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Baranyi found guilty

Thursday, November 05, 1998
Teen says he doesn't know why he murdered 4 members of Bellevue family; “maybe a messed-up gene somewhere”

By Tracy Johnson
Journal Reporter

Alex Baranyi said he still can't quite express, even to himself, why he helped murder an entire family last year, nor does he want to remember any part of the bloody night.

He wasn't surprised jurors found him guilty, and he did not seem fazed by the mandatory life sentence it means. Last night at King County Jail, the teen was cheerfully animated, and he said he doesn't think of himself as a cold, calculating murderer.

“It's almost like the ability to kill someone is totally separate from someone's personality,'' he said, then contemplated the idea for a few moments. “It's, I don't know, maybe a messed-up gene somewhere.''

But the 19-year-old convicted quadruple-murderer said he still can't really answer the question of why _ why did he strangle 20-year-old Kim Wilson at a Bellevue park, then sneak into her house to help beat and stab the rest of her family?

“I have consciously tried to block out as much of that situation as possible,'' he said. “It's a very gruesome thing, and it's not something I want to remember... I look back and think I couldn't have done it. It seems like it was a different person.''

Family and friends of the Wilson family sat through Baranyi's trial in King County Superior Court for roughly three weeks, often fighting back tears as they heard gory testimony and looked at horrific photographs of their slain loved ones.

They fought back tears yesterday as the verdict was read, then hurried out of the courtroom to avoid reporters. Rose Wilson's brother, Gerald Mahoney, declined to talk about the trial.

They are people Baranyi coolly admitted he almost never thinks about. His voice revealed not a hint of sorrow. He is not haunted by recollections of the night he took four loved ones from them.

He said simply, “The victims' family will hate me until the day I die. No begging for forgiveness would even be listened to.''

Still, he isn't sure how he will be able to face relatives of the Wilson family at his Dec. 4 sentencing. He said he had scribbled out a few rough drafts of a speech he will make at the hearing, but he has tossed them all out.

Baranyi wouldn't discuss many details of the murders, worried his comments might jeopardize his case if he appeals.  Clad in his red jail uniform and making funny faces at an inmate at an adjacent visiting window, Baranyi passed off difficult questions with a quick wit.

It took a six-man, six woman jury only three and a half hours to find the teen guilty yesterday of the worst murder case in Bellevue's history. He was convicted of four counts of aggravated first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence.

The verdict concluded a three-week trial that focused on Baranyi's mental state.  Prosecutors contended -- and the jury agreed -- the murders were carefully planned by Baranyi and his best  friend, David Anderson. They say Anderson didn't like Kim Wilson and owed her money.

But his lawyers claimed he was mentally impaired and following the orders of Anderson, who they say masterminded the crime. They said Baranyi suffered from bipolar disorder, characterized by drastic mood swings, and that he would do anything for Anderson.

Jurors decided an unhappy childhood and the influence of a friend simply didn't justify the teen murdering Kim Wilson, her parents, William and Rose Wilson, and her sister, Julia, 17. Juror Carl King, 67, said Baranyi was “a neurotic, troubled young guy... But I don't think it makes him any less guilty.''

Jurors concluded Anderson was the instigator of the killings, but they had no doubt Baranyi willingly followed, King said. Other jurors declined to discuss their verdict. One juror struggled for composure when the verdict was read, and she later left the courtroom in tears.

Anderson will stand trial in January, and his attorneys have said he was not involved in the killings.

Last night, Baranyi said he doesn't think he'll ever know what happened in his mind the night of the murders. He said maybe there were a few “ingredients,'' like his attorney told jurors in his closing argument.

He said he was depressed -- he has been for as long as he can remember. A troubled childhood made him feel vulnerable, and he was somewhat controlled by Anderson. He said he could only see Anderson's hold on him in retrospect.

“When I look back at our relationship, I pretty much think of it as him manipulating me -- and everyone else,'' he said.

The teen has been locked up for almost two years. But it wasn't until a few days ago, he said, that he suddenly grasped the power a jury would have over his life.

“It didn't really sink home that these 12 people on my right are going to decide whether I live or die in prison,'' Baranyi said.

Baranyi was vexed by his attorneys' strategy, a diminished-capacity defense blaming the killings on a mental disorder. He said his attorneys decided to use the strategy without giving him a choice -- though a judge ruled otherwise.

He decided he wanted a new trial almost two weeks ago, and said he was preparing to interrupt the proceedings by standing up in open court to read a much-practiced speech. He said his attorneys talked him into simply presenting the written draft to Judge Michael Spearman.

The diminished-capacity defense looked bleak, he said, and he wanted to simply deny his involvement in the killings. He still would, and would even consider acting as his own attorney, if he were ever granted another chance by a higher court.

Admitting he was there when the killings occurred, yet blaming the crime on a mental disorder was simply a strategy he felt was doomed.

“If I was the jury, I would have found me guilty too,'' he said.

He laughed about parts his confession to police, in which he spoke about murder as an “opportunity to experience something truly phenomenal.'' He chalks some of his philosophical ruminations to being a 17-year-old kid '' a completely different person than he says he is now.

“That whole experience with death thing -- I can't believe I said all that garbage,'' he said.

He also scoffs at the notion that fantasy role-playing games or mock sword battles had anything to do with the killings. They were merely hobbies, he said, and ones he hadn't practiced for years.

Baranyi said he and Anderson did discuss crime and even killing a number of times, but it was all talk.

“It was never something that was real,'' he said, until the night of killings, but he did not want to talk about when hypothetical talk of killing became a brutal plan.

Though aggravated murder can be a capital crime, Baranyi and Anderson could not face the death penalty because they were only 17 when the killings occurred. The minimum punishment, however, is life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Baranyi's attorney, Mark Flora, called the mandatory life sentence “a flaw in the system'' for “a young man with a mental disorder that is treatable.''

But senior deputy prosecutor Jeff Baird believes it was the only appropriate consequence for someone who brutally killed four people.

“I'm more interested in protecting the community than conducting some sort of experiment with Mr. Baranyi and rehabilitation,'' Baird said.

Tracy Johnson covers police and courts.  She can be reached at 425-453-4262 or  tracy.johnson@eastsidejournal.com

Copyright 1998 Horvitz Newspapers
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