At the age of 13, Kelly Beethe did the vacuuming, the laundry, the dishes and dinner. She was a responsible girl with divorced parents, a working mother and a little sister.
So it was Kelly who noticed one morning in August 1990 that her mother's car was still outside, that her mother apparently had not gone to work. She knocked on her mother's bedroom door, and found it locked. When she got no answer, she went into the living room and watched TV. Then she started to worry again, and went around to the sliding glass door that led to her mother's bedroom.
At the age of 13, Kelly Beethe found her mother's body. Carol Marie Beethe, 35, had been beaten to death in her bed only a few hours before, while neighborhood children camped outside and a friend of Kelly's visited her at her own bedroom window about 4:15 a.m.
Fourteen minutes later, Kelly saw someone shine a flashlight into the bathroom, her sister's room and then her own. She wondered if the power had gone out and looked at her clock. She wondered whether the someone was her mother's boyfriend.
King County prosecutors say that someone with the flashlight was George Waterfield Russell, 33, a Mercer Island thief accused of killing Beethe, Mary Anne Pohlreich, 27, and Andrea Levine, 24, in a grisly murder spree beginning in June 1990 and ending a few months later, just before Labor Day.
In the Beethe and Levine cases, Russell is charged with aggravated murder; in the Pohlreich case, first-degree. His is the first "serial killer" trial in King County. Russell has pleaded not guilty to the three murders.
Prosecutors have already presented a great deal of evidence in the case of Pohlreich, who was killed June 23: genetic material culled from semen found in Pohlreich matched Russell's and 8 percent of the population; genetic material culled from a blood stain left in a truck Russell borrowed the night Pohlreich disappeared from Papagayo's matched Pohlreich's and 7 percent of the population.
Fibers matching that of carpets in the truck Russell borrowed that night were discovered around her body. Witnesses testified that Pohlreich and Russell knew each other and that both were at the Bellevue bar and restaurant that night.
There's less evidence in the Beethe murder, and the defense insists that Beethe's boyfriend killed her, smarting from humiliation she'd recently meted out and jealous over a new man she'd taken up with.
Then it was Kelly Beethe's turn to testify. The tall, blond girl answered prosecutor Rebecca Roe's questions in a soft but unwavering voice and didn't cry until she left the courtroom.
Kelly Beethe testified yesterday she didn't know who the person with the flashlight was. But when she walked around to the sliding glass door, looked in and saw her mother's body, she knew something was terribly wrong.
"I got really scared then," she said.