Murder suspect’s girlfriend testifies

A woman who might have been able to save Rachel Burkheimer burst into tears before a jury Thursday when she started to describe what she saw when she walked into the garage of her duplex on Sept. 23, 2002.

Trissa Conner, who now lives in Lynnwood, said Burkheimer was bound and sitting on the floor.

"She was sitting on the floor and had her arms tied behind her back," Conner said.

Conner was called to Snohomish County Superior Court to testify for the prosecution against her boyfriend, Yusef "Kevin" Jihad, 34, who used to share half of the duplex with her and her then 7-year-old daughter.

Jihad is charged with aggravated murder in Burkheimer’s shooting death, just hours after Conner walked into the garage and saw the Marysville woman in distress.

Through a stream of tears, she told the jury that she yelled at John Anderson, 22, who had been on a couch next to Burkheimer, 18, of Marysville.

She asked if she was OK. Burkheimer, whose mouth was gagged by duct tape and a sock, shook her head no, Conner testified.

She went to the kitchen for a knife and started cutting Burkheimer loose. She asked her name a couple of times because she couldn’t understand the gagged victim, and finally understood her to say, "Rachel."

Anderson, who is one of two others charged with aggravated murder, "grabbed my arm and pushed me out of the garage," Conner testified.

Deputy prosecutor Michael Downes asked her if she called for help. Conner said she went to the kitchen but the cordless phone was not there.

Just before the court closed for the day, Downes asked her if she went upstairs to use the phone in her bedroom and call the police. Conner said she didn’t.

Prosecutors have alleged that Conner then yelled for several young men to get out of her house. That’s when Burkheimer was stuffed into a large sports bag and dumped into a red Jeep Cherokee.

Burkheimer was driven to a remote area east of Gold Bar, where a grave was dug and she was shot to death by her ex-boyfriend, Anderson, prosecutors allege.

While Jihad didn’t accompany the four men who allegedly killed Burkheimer, prosecutors say that he was the boss of a gang that planned to make money selling drugs and stealing.

They also allege that Jihad orchestrated the homicide because Burkheimer knew too much about his gang and had been dating someone from a rival group.

Jihad’s attorney, Mickey Krom of Everett, argues that his client had nothing to do with Burkheimer’s kidnapping and death. He’s already told the jury the tragedy was a result of a domestic dispute between Burkheimer and Anderson.

In court on Thursday, Conner told the jury she then lived at the duplex with her daughter and Jihad. She was working as a caregiver in an adult family home, and Sept. 23 was the first day of nursing school for her at Everett Community College.

She arrived home between 4 and 5 p.m. and was met by Jihad in the driveway.

"He told me to go get him something to eat," she said. "He just said he didn’t want me in the house right now."

After prompting by Downes, she said Jihad told her, "There’s something going on I don’t want you to see right now."

According to other witnesses, Conner returned home a few minutes after Burkheimer was assaulted, thrown to the floor and bound. Conner’s cousin, Tony Williams, 21, testified that Jihad gave the order to carry Burkheimer into the garage.

Later, Conner heard a radio in the garage and went to see what was happening.

Besides Anderson, a third man faces aggravated murder charges, John Alan Whitaker, 23, of Everett. Their trials are scheduled later.

Five young men have pleaded guilty to various charges in connection with Burkheimer’s kidnapping and murder. Conner was not charged with a crime.

She is scheduled to resume testimony today.

Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or

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