The Seattle Times, The Stranger reporters earn Pulitzers

SEATTLE — An investigation into the accidental overdose deaths of people on state-subsidized health care who were given a cheap but dangerous pain control drug and an account of a harrowing rape and murder trial won Pulitzer Prizes for The Seattle Times and the Seattle weekly newspaper The Stranger.

The Pulitzers were announced Monday in New York. They are given out annually by Columbia University.

Michael J. Berens and Ken Armstrong from The Times won a prize for investigative reporting for a look at how vulnerable patients in Washington state were moved from safer pain-control drugs to methadone, which is less expensive but carries more risks.

Eli Sanders of The Stranger won the award for feature writing for a story about a woman who survived a brutal rape. Her partner was killed and the surviving woman testified about her ordeal in court.

Berens said he was honored and humbled by the recognition.

He said going through the numbers and data for the methadone story he was struck by the “sheer number of impoverished people who were falling victim.”

“Not only is this wrong, but this is incredibly tragic,” Berens said.

Sanders won for his coverage of the murder trial of a man accused of raping and stabbing a lesbian couple in their Seattle home in 2009, killing one of them. Isaiah Kalebu was found guilty last year of aggravated murder, attempted murder, rape and burglary.

“I was stunned at first,” Sanders said upon learning he had received journalism’s highest award. He said it was “cool that a scrappy little alt-weekly in Seattle can produce something that resonates on this level.”

“It’s a great, great privilege to work at a paper that will allow someone to hang on to a crime story for so long and to disappear as long as I did at a trial,” Sanders said. “The fact that I was able to do this piece at all was a credit to how much time the Stranger was willing to give.”

The awards that The Seattle Times and The Stranger won each carry a $10,000 prize.

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