In just two minutes, a 9-year-old boy from Denver lost all his next of kin.
His mom and dad, Althea and Joseph McDaniels, lay dead on the ground floor of their home in Bear Valley. His 11-year-old sister Christine was dead upstairs with gunshot wounds to the head.
Soon the family had to move to Mississippi to be closer to relatives. Instead, according to police and prosecutors, Bustaman Kartabrata tricked his 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 again and again, again and again,” prosecutor Ashley Beck said Wednesday in her opening remarks at Kartrabrata’s trial.
After a nearly three-year delay, Kartabratha’s trial began Tuesday in Denver District Court, where he faces three charges of first-degree murder in connection with the McDaniels’ death. If found guilty of the murder, Kartabrat would be sentenced to life imprisonment.
Prosecutors presented their evidence on Wednesday morning.
They have the testimony of a 9-year-old boy who survived by running away from home when the shooting broke out and ran to a neighbor’s apartment for help. The boy, during police interrogation, identified Kartabratha as the shooter and said that Kartabratha was married to his grandmother, according to the affidavit at Kartabratha’s arrest. The boy, now 12, is expected to testify in court.
Investigators also collected surveillance footage from a neighbor’s home showing Kartabratha entering the McDaniel home with his wife and exiting shortly after. The video showed Kartabratha returning to the McDaniel home at approximately 9:29 that night, leaving about two minutes later. The video also shows the boy running away from home, running down the driveway with Kartabratha inside.
Beck said that Kartabratha returned to the house and said that his wife left her purse inside. When the McDaniels let him in, he opened fire with a silenced pistol, Beck told jurors.
When police tracked Kartabratha to his home hours later, they found six packed suitcases in the living room and smaller bags containing $30,000 in cash, as well as the passports of Kartabratha and his wife, who was Joseph McDaniels’ mother, Beck said.
But prosecutors lack one thing: an alleged motive.
“The evidence will present a very clear picture of a man who came to the McDaniels family home with a gun, a silencer and a ruse to commit a brutal murder with no apparent motive,” Beck said.
Lawyers for Cartabratha did not present any contradictory evidence in their brief opening statement, but urged jurors not to let sympathy or bias influence their decision.
“I want you to listen to the evidence with an open and skeptical eye,” public defender Sarah Welton-Mitchell said.
The trial was repeatedly delayed as Kartabrata underwent a competency assessment and treatment to restore his legal capacity.
The trial is expected to last a week.