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 for insanity, but a jury convicted him Thursday of the shooting after concluding he knew what he was doing when he shot Isabella Thallas 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 get justice for the victims.
Prosecutors alleged that Close got into a “verbal exchange” with Thallas and Simon when they encouraged their dog, Rocko, to relieve himself 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 puppy to “go potty.”
“Are you going to train that f-king dog or just yell at it?” Close said, according to Denver Police Department homicide detective Joseph Trujillo.
Close then grabbed the AK-47, which he had taken from a friend who was a Denver police sergeant, and fired 24 rounds.
Thallas was struck in the back and died on the spot just two days after celebrating his birthday. Her boyfriend was wounded in the leg and buttocks.
After the shooting, Close got into his Mercedes SUV with the AK-47 and a gun and fled, but was pulled over during a traffic stop later that day.
Close’s public defender, Sonja Prins, said he had suffered a mental breakdown, arguing that an abusive childhood, a series of job losses, a breakup and the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to his poor mental health at the time of the shooting.
Close wept when the sentence was announced after less than a day of deliberations, as did members of Thallas’ family who attended the hearing.
Thalas’ mother, Anna Thallas, said afterward that she felt numb.
“We’ve been waiting two and a half years for this day, and what happened in there just happened … almost as quickly 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 Thallas, told reporters outside the courtroom that “there is no justice in this” compared to the amount of loss caused by Close’s “bad choices.”
Close faces a mandatory life sentence when he is sentenced on November 4.