Keenu Tiyme murder trial: Long, strange trip to justice in death of tattoo artist Kauri Tiyme
Barring a last-minute deal, attorneys will be picking a jury Monday morning in Denver District Court to decide the fate of Keenu Tiyme -- more than two-and-a-half years after the body piercer was arrested and charged with the gruesome death of his ex-wife, 39-year-old tattoo artist Kauri Tiyme, in what appears to have been a bizarre and badly orchestrated suicide pact.
As detailed in my 2009 cover story "Let's Get Lost," Kauri's baffling death sent shockwaves through body-art circles locally and nationally. She'd built an elite reputation in the field, specializing in extremely vibrant custom art, often involving geometric forms or fractals -- while engaging in increasingly edgy modifications of her own flesh, from breast surgery to piercings, transdermal implants, Medusa-like dreadlocks and more.
She had her own tattoo shop in Breckenridge, with Keenu as the resident piercing specialist, but she filed for divorce and moved to a warehouse space in Denver in 2008. In October, her battered and slashed body was found in Denver hotel room; Keenu was arrested a few days later after a police chase in New Mexico. Some friends wondered if her ex had tortured her in revenge for the breakup, but a profusion of suicide notes, pills and other evidence in the room suggested that she'd been, to some extent, a willing participant in her violent and protracted demise.
In a lengthy statement to police, Keenu described how the two of them, in a deep state of depression, had attempted to purchase a gun and driven to the Royal Gorge with a plan of jumping to their deaths, but had gotten cold feet. They'd then checked into the hotel, drank heavily and swallowed a copious amount of sleeping pills. When that didn't work, he started choking her and slicing her wrists. The attack grew increasingly violent. When Kauri finally expired, Keenu said, he tried to hang himself and ingested mouse poison, but utterly failed to end his own life.
Keenu has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. His lawyers are seeking to establish that he was not merely depressed but in such an altered state of mind (and perhaps tanked on tequila and pills) that he didn't have the required intent to commit first-degree murder. That could be a tall order, but here's an excerpt from one of the notes he left behind:
I WANT TO DIE I WANT TO COMMIT SUICIDE BUT I STOP AT THE LAST SECOND I JUST AM HAVING PROBLEMS GETTING OVER THAT EDGE, I SNAPPED FOR KAURI BUT CANT FOR ME. WHY TELL ME WHAT DO I NEED TO TO DO JUST TELL ME PLEASE I DON'T WANT TO LIVE ANYMORE I WANT TO DIE WHY DO I STOP WHY CAN'T I DO IT FUCK HELP ME I NEED TO DIE PLEASE LET ME DIE I'M TIRED I CAN'T STAND THE VOICE I SEE HER SMILE ALL THE TIME IN MY HEAD BUT I WISH I COULD SEE HER AGAIN BUT I CAN'T I MADE SURE OF THAT
The trial is expected to last five to seven days. For a slideshow of Cora Reed's amazing photos of the canvas Kauri Tiyme made of her own body, go here.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Westword's biggest stories.