Things That Matter

Isabella Thallas Was Shot With an AK-47 While Walking Her Dog — Two Years Later, Her Killer Has Been Convicted of Murder

In June 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdowns, Isabella Thallas and her boyfriend Darian Simon just wanted to walk their dog Rocco, mainly because the dog hadn’t pooped in a few days and they were both feeling a little stir-crazy.

Finally, when it seemed like the pitbull was gearing up to break his days-long streak, Thallas and Simon were gunned down in cold blood by a man named Michael Close.

According to a piece from The Atlantic, Simon survived the shooting after undergoing intensive surgery on his leg, but Thallas died on the scene after Close fired 24 bullets in their direction from an AK-47 which he had stolen from his friend Daniel Politica, a sergeant with the Denver Police Department who has since resigned voluntarily.

Now, more than two years after the shooting, Close has been convicted of first-degree murder and attempted murder and, although his sentencing is scheduled for November 4, he is expected to serve a life sentence, which is mandatory for first-degree murder convictions, according to The Denver Post.

Both Close and the family of Isabella Thallas were seen crying in the courtroom as the verdict was read.

Standing outside of the courtroom, Isabella’s mother Ana said, “We’ve been waiting two-and-a-half years for this day and what happened in there just went by… almost as fast as my daughter was slaughtered and our lives were changed forever,” per CBS News.

Speaking with the outlet’s Colorado station, she said, “We just relived everything,” adding, “She was 65 inches long. We viewed the coroner’s pictures of her body being shot.” 

Isabella’s father Josh also spoke with reporters following the verdict, and said that half of his heart “was left that day with Isabella. The other half is left with memories and pictures and great thoughts of her soul… her spirit came forward.”

He then thanked the jury involved with the case and noted that he will carry Isabella’s memory with him even though “this verdict cannot bring her back.”

Little is known about Michael Close’s decision to shoot Thallas and Simon with a high-capacity rifle.

Their interaction, according to an Atlantic story, was brief and as respectful as could be for a man screaming at two strangers from a window overlooking the street. Simon remembers Close asking him if he was planning to train his dog, to which Simon said the dog was trained as he had had him for four years.

The public defender assigned to Close’s case, Sonja Prins, attempted to sway the jury’s opinion by bringing up Close’s abusive childhood, a recent breakup, a series of jobs that he had lost, and trauma stemming from the COVID-19 lockdowns. The jury wasn’t having any of it, however, and determined that Close was guilty on all counts.

Although Thallas’ murder represents one person out of over 40,000 who die each year from gun violence in the United States alone, the case has made headlines and piqued the interest of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me…” host Peter Sagal because of how senseless and unfair Thallas’ death really was, and the ways in which her death are representative of the overall careless attitude towards gun violence and ownership in the US.

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