After 3 1/2 hours of deliberation, a King County Superior Court jury today found 19-year-old Alex Baranyi guilty of aggravated first-degree murder in the slayings of a Bellevue family of four.
Baranyi smiled at his attorneys before the verdict was announced, and then smiled again afterward as he was handcuffed and taken back to jail.
Conviction on the charges will send Baranyi to prison for the rest of his life without possibility of parole. He was not subject to the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of the crime.
Baranyi and his best friend David Anderson, also 19, were charged with four counts of murder in the deaths of William and Rose Wilson, and their daughters, Kimberly, 20, and Julia, 17, on Jan. 3, 1997. Anderson will go on trial in January.
"We are obviously very pleased with the verdict but unfortunately for the family the case is not concluded," said Deputy Prosecutor Patricia Eakes. "We're halfway where we need to be."
Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Baird said, "I think the evidence was overwhelming and I think the jury came to the same conclusion."
The slayings were the worst in Bellevue's history.
In statements to police and psychologists, Baranyi said that Anderson lured Kimberly Wilson - a friend who was visiting home from an AmeriCorps volunteer stint in San Diego - to a Woodridge-neighborhood park. Baranyi said he waited behind a bush and then strangled her.
Baranyi said he and Anderson smoked cigarettes, then went to the Wilson home eight blocks away to kill the rest of the family because Kimberly's parents knew that she was with Anderson that night.
In his confession to police, Baranyi said he had been in a rut, and wanted to experience murder. He told a psychologist that Kimberly Wilson was targeted, in part, because Anderson owed her money.
Much of the testimony during the three-week trial focused on whether the killings had been planned. Prosecutors used statements Baranyi had made to psychologists - that he and Anderson had talked about killing someone for a year, that he put socks on his hands before entering the unlocked Wilson home.
Prosecutors said police found a bloody shoelace in Baranyi's room and that DNA evidence linked it to the crime scene. The shoelace had apparently been cut from a pair of boots, which were never found. Stereo equipment and other items stolen from the Wilson home were also in Baranyi's room.
Throughout the trial, the prosecution characterized Baranyi as a sociopath and said there was no evidence that he suffered from a mental infirmity.
Defense lawyers had argued that the high-school dropout was neglected as a child, could not distinguish fantasy from reality and was completely controlled by his best friend.
Jurors rejected the defense argument that Baranyi could not premeditate or intend the killings because he suffers from bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression.
Accepting the defense of diminished capacity would have required them to consider an acquittal or the lesser charge of second-degree murder. But jurors held Baranyi responsible.
Carl King, 67, a juror from Lake Forest Park, said after the verdict that, "(Alex) entered the house for that reason - to commit murder . . . I think he's a troubled young guy . . . I don't think that it's his fault, but I don't think it makes him any less guilty."
Attorney Mark Flora had asked the jury not to forgive, but to understand, saying his client was mentally disordered. Following the verdict, he said, "I think Alex has a lot to offer. He is bright and has a treatable mental disorder. It is hard to say what punishment is appropriate."
He said his client, who does feel remorse for the killings, will likely appeal. "It seems to me there is reason to rethink (a sentence of) life without parole," Flora said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Alex Fryer's phone message number is 206-464-8124. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org