After Kyle Rittenhouse of Seattle was accused of killing his own daughter in a Washington State home in 2015, his case became increasingly complicated. According to a trial report in the Tacoma News Tribune, police found a pocket knife matching the suspected knife in a bush close to where his daughter Kaitlyn went missing.
Also, Rittenhouse was raised Presbyterian and members of his family testified that he told them he had been sent to a New Age clinic before Kaitlyn’s disappearance. They told the court that they never told the police about the trip because it was supposedly for a specific purpose.
Kyle Rittenhouse of the state stands in front of the courtroom as a jury makes its decision. Photograph: Stephen Brashear/Reuters
The jury acquitted him on one of two counts and found him guilty of felonious assault and child endangerment. One juror, whose name the newsroom cannot publish, criticized other jurors for “out of bounds” comments on social media. It is only the second time a juror has publicly questioned the verdict.
Here are some observations from the five years since Rittenhouse’s case:
1. Who was seriously harmed?
Rittenhouse beat Kaitlyn and tried to drown her in a bathtub before he wrapped the toddler in a sheet, went to work and went to get drunk. It was the neighbor, whom Rittenhouse confided in after the attack, who initially called police. Later she received texts from Rittenhouse’s wife and her father-in-law.
Kyle Rittenhouse walks out of the courtroom after pleading not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse in 2015. Photograph: Jennifer Buchanan/AP
Neither Rittenhouse’s wife nor his father-in-law ever testified. In fact, the accused killer did not interact with the real victim until several days later. In his closing arguments, the prosecutor said this meant that the real victim was the child.
2. Were police out of line in their initial response?
Rittenhouse’s actions had certainly a weird quality: he waited to call the police until several days after he had attacked his girlfriend’s daughter. Shortly after his arrest, however, his house was raided, his six-year-old daughter was found alive, and he was revealed to be a father of nine children. Police found a shopping bag containing a slew of domestic-violence articles, as well as Kaitlyn’s one-year-old blood-stained child’s toy.
3. What was he trying to do by going to a New Age clinic?
Kaitlyn’s mother had talked to him in the kitchen that afternoon, but it had been hours since she last seen him. Shortly after his arrest, police found papers in his garbage bag that suggested his going to a clinic was a cover-up to hide his drinking problem, according to testimony. Also, he had received a five-day alcohol detox program in Utah, but the camp did not release the name of the facility.
4. The details of the stabbing remain hazy
Court documents show the knife in Kaitlyn’s bedroom closet and Rittenhouse telling police he accidentally stabbed her while trying to pull her away from another knife he was stabbing. He had what appeared to be a gash on his left wrist, but some court documents revealed it was actually a cut on his back.
5. Who is really the family’s hero?
A relative of Kaitlyn’s who was interviewed by police testified that it was a police officer who saved her life. But about a week later, another police officer testified that Rittenhouse had bitten her, adding: “With Kyle there would be blood everywhere, and you didn’t see that until he’d gotten up and walked away.”
Police said Rittenhouse became emotional when that officer described them saving her life. She said the stabbing had occurred only minutes earlier.
6. Was he acting out of a darker side?
Rittenhouse’s parents were married at the time of his arrest and had a son, Nathan, about 10 years ago. The parents divorced a few years later. Nathan told police his brother treated their mother like she was less than human, and that he was a threat to her and the children, including Kaitlyn. During his trial, Rittenhouse claimed he only wanted to be close to his family and his ex-wife was controlling.
7. So what’s next?
The defense wanted to throw out Rittenhouse’s admissions that he killed his daughter, arguing they were not properly read because he was intoxicated at the time. His attorney also argued the length of his sentence, 35 years in prison, was inadequate. The judge, however, set the sentence at 38 years. Rittenhouse will not be eligible for parole for at least 30 years.