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Keenu Tiyme trial: Is depression a defense for the bizarre slaying of his ex-wife?

keenu tiyme.jpg
Keenu Tiyme
When homicide detectives questioned him in 2008, shortly after the discovery of his ex-wife's battered and slashed corpse in a hotel room, Keenu Tiyme had trouble recalling his phone number and address. This afternoon, a Denver jury will be asked to decide where he'll reside in the future -- in a prison cell or the state mental hospital at Pueblo.

Tiyme has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the death of Kauri Tiyme, a 39-year-old tattoo artist who'd moved her studio to Denver from Breckenridge a few months before her death. Although she'd divorced Keenu shortly before the move, the two had remained friendly -- and got together in the fall of 2008 for what turned into a six-day quest to find a painless and quick way to kill themselves.

"She didn't want to stay here, and I was pretty much in the same place, too," Keenu told Denver police in a recorded statement played at his trial.

He succeeded in killing Kauri -- slowly, painfully and ineptly -- then failed at taking his own life. He was arrested several days later in New Mexico, after fleeing police and crashing his vehicle into a guardrail.

As detailed in my 2009 feature "Let's Get Lost," notes found in the hotel room -- alongside Kauri's body, which Keenu had bathed, dressed and wrapped in towels and duct tape -- indicated she had been a willing participant in the suicide pact.

Kauri tiyme thumbnail.jpg
Cora Reed
Kauri Tiyme.
The couple had gone to a gun shop, but Keenu failed a background check. They drove to the Royal Gorge, but Keenu "got nervous" about taking the plunge. They then checked into a ninth-floor room with a balcony at the Denver Tech Center Marriott, ordered a "romance package" of champagne and strawberries, and set about trying other methods.

They drank heavily but couldn't bring themselves to jump off the balcony. Kauri stripped down to her underwear and got in the bathtub, and Keenu tried opening veins in her wrists and one thigh. "All it did was change the color at the top of the water," Keenu told the cops.

At her request, he insisted, he tried choking her into unconsciousness -- but she found the procedure "uncomfortable," and Keenu kept breaking off to vomit. (He told the detectives he'd consumed two boxes of rat poison and more than a hundred aspirin and sleeping pills.) He finally succeeded in knocking her out by bashing her in the head with a liquor bottle, then cut her throat. He then dressed her and placed her in the bed. "I wanted to make sure she wasn't cold," he said.

The prosecution maintains that Tiyme's actions amount to premeditated murder, regardless of whether his ex cooperated or not. But forensic psychiatrist Karen Fukutaki, the expert witness presented to shore up the defense's insanity plea, testified on Thursday that she believes Tiyme was suffering at the time from "major depression with psychotic features" -- to an extent that he was unable "to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions."

When she met with Tiyme to evaluate his mental state at the jail infirmary, ten days after Kauri's death, he "appeared extremely depressed, to a degree that I rarely see in my clinical practice," said Fukutaki, who's worked at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo and for the state prison system.

People who suffer from serious depression are "very constricted in the options they have," she added. "They lose the ability to think and problem solve in a broader way... It didn't even cross his mind that he shouldn't have assisted in her suicide. Did he know what he was doing, helping her kill herself? Yes... [but] in his mind, there was no other option."

But prosecutors and their experts maintain that even a deeply depressed and suicidal Keenu Tiyme still knew the difference between right and wrong -- a critical component under Colorado law to determining criminal culpability. The notes left in the room, along with some of Keenu's own statements to police about how he felt about the drawn-out suicide ordeal, suggest he was anything but enthusiastic about his efforts.

At one point the detectives asked him if his chronic puking in the hotel room was because of the rat poison or because he was sickened by his own actions.

"Both," he said.

The jury is expected to begin deliberations today, shortly after closing arguments.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Eric Kinder allegedly violates his probation for armed standoff by trying to kill himself."


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