MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — They were thankful for family and opportunity.
The husband found work as a hospital assistant; his wife nurtured their two young children.
Makele Teweldemedhin is well-liked among his peers at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
“He has already thought of something we need before we get in the room,” said Marilyn Acquah, a registered nurse at Harborview and friend. “He is often two steps ahead of us nurses.”
His work ethic and affable nature did not go unnoticed. Not long ago, Teweldemedhin was asked to help lead a retreat among other hospital assistants at Harborview.
He’d proudly show his co-workers photos of his wife and children.
“Everyone loves him,” Acquah said.
These days the Mountlake Terrace man spends long hours at the hospital, but he isn’t anticipating his co-workers’ needs. He’s keeping vigil over his wife, Marta, who Wednesday remained in a medically induced coma nine days after a stranger with a history of mental illness kicked down the front door to their home and beat her unconscious.
“The victim did not know the suspect,” Mountlake Terrace police Cmdr. Mike Haynes said.
She heard a commotion coming from her neighbor’s place and went to investigate. Her family rents the basement of the house, which includes two separate residences.
Police have been in daily contact with the family since the attack.
The suspect is Christopher D. Yacono, 29, who has a history of mental health issues. He told police he doesn’t know why he broke into the home. Nor could he explain why he slammed the woman’s head onto the hardwood floor, threw a beer bottle at her unconscious body and beat her with a cooking pot until it broke.
“Yacono said something told him to go into the house,” police wrote in an arrest report.
Court records show Yacono was convicted in 2017 after setting a fire the year before in a Lynnwood apartment where a former roommate lived and threatening the man’s life in a text message.
The court in May found that his mental health issues played a role in his crimes. He was sentenced to prison May 16, and released to community supervision Oct. 31. He’s under court order to be under supervision for life, according to the state Department of Corrections. Yacono had a previous conviction for felony assault and nearly a dozen misdemeanor convictions. He’s now in the Snohomish County Jail, charged with first-degree assault and first-degree burglary. His bail is set at $150,000.
Under the state’s three-strikes law, he could face life in prison if convicted, Haynes said.
Makele Teweldemedhin is from Eritrea, which gained its independence to become Africa’s youngest nation in 1993. It is a land where the literacy rate is about 20 percent and food for many can be scarce.
At Harborview, Makele was known to be generous with his food, often offering co-workers a part of his meal. He did so Sunday, even as his wife was in critical care.
“One of the things he said to me was, ‘I never knew something like this could happen here,’ ” Acquah said.
An online fundraiser has been set up for the family. It had surpassed $27,000 from more than 330 contributors as of Wednesday. The goal is $50,000. Much of the money has come from his Harborview co-workers and the local Ethiopian and Eritrean communities.
The family has requested privacy.
“Makele, his family and friends are aware of the support from the community and are so grateful,” Acquah said.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.