By Scott North Herald Writer
EVERETT — Jeff Barth was angry.
His chief rival in the gang he ran with had punched him in the face and called him names. Barth whipped out a handgun and invited the guy to step outside. But the other man didn’t flinch. Instead, he turned his attention to beating up Rachel Burkheimer, an 18-year-old from Marysville who stood less than 5 feet tall and weighed less than 100 pounds.
Barth on Thursday told a Snohomish County jury he walked out in disgust that afternoon in September 2002. But that created a problem.
He’d left without his stash of marijuana. He wanted his dope back.
Barth testified at the aggravated murder trial of Yusef "Kevin" Jihad, 34, of Everett.
Prosecutors are trying to prove that Jihad ordered Burkheimer’s killing because he perceived her as a threat to the criminal gang Jihad allegedly led.
Barth, who last month cut a deal with prosecutors and agreed to testify against his co-defendants, on Thursday said Jihad admitted to him that he had ordered Burkheimer killed because he believed she couldn’t be trusted not to tell police about being kidnapped and beaten at Jihad’s home.
Barth told jurors what they’ve already heard from other witnesses: that Burkheimer was visiting Jihad’s house when another member of the gang, her former boyfriend John Anderson, 22, suddenly began beating her.
Jihad and Anderson planned the attack, and it was supposed to just scare Burkheimer, Barth said he was told. But "Anderson went a little too far, so to speak," Barth said, and Jihad told him he had told Anderson to "finish what he started."
Before long, Burkheimer was loaded into a duffel bag and driven to the Cascade Mountain foothills near Gold Bar, where she was fatally shot and left in a hastily dug grave.
Barth was on the witness stand almost all of Thursday, and he was scheduled to resume testimony this morning.
Under questioning from deputy prosecutor Michael Downes, Barth told jurors he originally was charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy and kidnapping. But he struck a deal with prosecutors on the eve of his trial in February, trading his testimony against Jihad and other co-defendants in exchange for a chance to plead guilty to the lesser charge of first-degree kidnapping.
The deal means Barth can expect to spend about 10 years in prison instead of the minimum 25-year sentence he would have faced if convicted of murder.
Barth spent much of Thursday talking about the structure of the gang that he, Jihad and others formed to make money through crime.
The gang’s original hierarchy had Jihad and Anderson at the top of the heap, but Barth said Jihad wanted to make him second in command. That led to friction with Anderson, Barth said.
There also was tension over Burkheimer, who knew most of the gang’s members and considered them friends. Burkheimer also was friends with the leader of a rival group, and Anderson was convinced she was trying to set up him and the others, Barth said.
Jihad initially disagreed with Anderson, standing by Burkheimer to the point that he and Anderson once had a fistfight over the issue, Barth said.
But Jihad became suspicious after he and another member of the group took Burkheimer up on an invitation to a party and spotted a member of the rival gang there.
Jihad said they’d "have to do something about it," Barth said.
Barth said he listened to Jihad and Anderson direct other members of the group to get Burkheimer to Jihad’s home in Everett. Initially, there was no problem, Barth said. Everybody was smoking pot and playing video games.
That’s when Anderson came in and started throwing punches and screaming at Barth and the others, he said.
Barth wanted to fight and had his .44-caliber handgun out, but Anderson instead turned his attentions to assaulting Burkheimer.
Barth went next door and stayed there until Jihad asked him to return. He didn’t immediately do so, but eventually went back to get his marijuana, which he’d left behind.
Jihad shared some cocaine with Barth in the kitchen, then told him that Burkheimer was being held in the garage, Barth said.
Barth said he went into the garage and saw Burkheimer bound and gagged on the floor, with Anderson hovering nearby.
Barth said he still wanted to fight Anderson. He pulled out his gun and pointed it at him.
"I told him he was a piece of (excrement). I told him to come outside," Barth said.
When Anderson refused, Barth said he suggested that everyone there should sexually assault Burkheimer.
Barth said he made the comment in an attempt to goad Anderson into fighting him.
"He was paranoid of all his friends trying to hit on her, make passes on her," Barth said.
Barth said he was waving his handgun around, but not, as some have testified, in a way that suggested a sexual assault on Burkheimer.
When Anderson didn’t react, Barth said he went back to the kitchen for more of Jihad’s cocaine.
He said Jihad complained about Anderson attacking Burkheimer in his home and the potential for physical evidence of the assault. Barth said Jihad was worried that Burkheimer may have scratched him, and he ordered that somebody clean under her fingernails. Jihad also stopped his girlfriend from calling police, and Barth said he left soon after.
"Did you see anybody do anything to help Rachel?" Downes asked.
Barth said he did not. He told jurors he didn’t know for certain what had happened to Burkheimer for several days.
Barth said still more time passed before Jihad told him that he had told Anderson to kill Burkheimer. He said the admission came during a bus trip to California. But under questioning from Jihad’s attorney, Mickey Krom, Barth said he couldn’t recall exactly when, where or how the conversation took place.
Jihad has denied ordering the killing. He faces life in prison without release if convicted of the aggravated murder charge. He’s also charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy.
Herald Writer Jim Haley contributed to this report.
Reporter Scott North: 425-339-3431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.