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Colorado Man Who Gunned Down 21-Year-Old Woman With AK-47 Over Dog Training Found Guilty
Michael Close was convicted of killing Isabella Thallas and wounding her boyfriend, Darian Simon, in an unprovoked shooting in June 2020. He will be sentenced in November.
A Colorado man has been convicted in the murder of a 21-year-old woman and the attempted murder of her then-27- year-old boyfriend, who were both shot more than two years ago while trying to encourage their dog to poop.
Michael Close was found guilty of one count of first degree murder – after deliberation and one count of first degree murder – extreme indifference in the 2020 slaying of Isabella “Bella” Joy Thallas, the Denver County District Attorney announced Thursday, as well as of two counts of attempt to commit first degree murder and two counts of first degree assault for the attacks on her and Darian Simon. He’d previously pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but the jury found him culpable.
Police were dispatched to 3001 North Fox Street in the Ballpark neighborhood of Denver after receiving multiple reports of shots fired at 11:40 a.m. on June 10, 2020, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com. Upon arrival, authorities found Thallas dead and Simon suffering from gunshot wounds to his legs.
Prosecutors said the shooting followed a “verbal altercation” about Simon's dog.
The couple were walking Simon's pitbull mix, Rocky, in a then-vacant lot adjacent to Close’s home near Coors Field when Simon “gave his dog a command to poop,” per charging documents. Close yelled at the couple through the window “asking if the victim was going to train the dog or just yell at it.”
The couple had turned away and were cleaning up the dog's poop when Close opened fire on on them with a high-powered semi-automatic AK-47 rifle — fitted with an illegal high-capacity magazine — through his ground-floor window. Of the 24 bullets he reportedly fired, one hit Thallas in the back, killing her, and two struck Simon (one in the legs and one in the buttocks).
Close then took several guns and fled the scene in a Mercedes crossover vehicle, leaving a voicemail for a friend in which he said, “Dude, I f--ked up really f--king bad. There’s no going back from this now" and calling his girlfriend to tell her he was sorry. He was pulled over in Pine, Colorado — 40 miles from his home — shortly after 1:00 p.m. that day.
In January 2021, officials disclosed that the AK-47 — initially misidentified as an AR-15 — used in the attack belonged to a Denver police officer with whom Close was friends, according to KMGH-TV; he was the also the person for whom Close left the voice mail acknowledging he'd done something wrong. The firearm, which wasn’t issued by the Denver Police Department, was allegedly taken by Close without the officer’s knowledge. The officer resigned from the force in March 2021, according to the Washington Post. (The Thallas family sued him and his insurance company settled the case for his policy maximum of $500,000, according to The Atlantic.)
The police department declined to bring charges against the officer.
The site where Thallas was gunned down has since been turned into a park and memorial site for the slain Colorado woman.
“Her middle name is Joy,” Thallas’ mother Ana Thallas said at her daughter’s funeral in June 2020, CBS News reported. “I chose that middle name so that she would bring joy to the people in her life."
Simon told Denver NBC affiliate KUSA in July that he views the construction of park as a way to have some control over the space where the shooting occurred.
“I think whenever you lose control of a situation you want to take control back,” he told the station.
“I am delighted that we were able to get justice for Isabella Thallas and Darian Simon,” Denver District Attorney Beth McCann said in a statement about the verdict. “Moreover, I am extremely proud of our prosecution team for their excellent work.”
Close is being held at Denver’s Downtown Detention Center, according to online jail records obtained by Oxygen.com. He’s scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 4, separate court records show. Close faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.