Angry, anguished, and finally emboldened by a kind judge, a Kansas City woman who was raped and nearly killed 17 years ago on Thursday vowed to find her attacker’s other victims and help reform the law enforcement system.
Juliette (a pseudonym) railed at the 17-year sentence Jibri Lie-Kinte Burnett received, saying the 38-year-old Olathe man was a “very peculiar sexual deviant.” Estimates are that Burnett would likely serve 15 years, with a reduction for good behavior while in prison.
"I got a life sentence! He'll get out in 15 years," she said.
Chronicled in a KCUR report, Juliette was savagely raped and stabbed in her home near Westport on Aug. 17, 1999. She survived, summoning the courage to go to a neighbor for rescue by remembering that she had a 4-year-old daughter to raise. In the following 17 years, Juliette has suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, chronic pain and dozens of hospitalizations.
Juliette’s case exposed a failure by Kansas City, Kansas, Police to follow up on a DNA match made in 2010. The case was finally solved when two young Wyandotte County prosecutors, Kristiane Bryant and Jennifer Tatum, took up the case last year, discovering the “cold hit” and arresting Burnett.
After several minutes reciting a litany of medical bills, insurance hassles and costs to the justice system, Juliette finally became emotional by a single kind act. Telling Wyandotte County Judge Bill Klapper that she was nearly done with her testimony, Klapper softly said, “Take as long as you want.”
Juliette, suddenly surprised by a system she believes hasn’t treated her well, broke down then, saying, “That was touching.”
“I did not get to be the parent I planned to be,” she said, looking back at her 21-year-old daughter, who was silently weeping. “I don’t want to be a victim. I don’t want to be a survivor. But I feel I was the one most impacted by this -- if not my daughter, than me.”
“He will be a danger! I’ve worked in mental health. He’s not going to stop. He’s not going to stop,” she said. “During these next 15 years, I’m going to find his other victims.”
A repentant Burnett, shackled and wearing a striped jailhouse jumpsuit, quoted the Bible, apologizing to Juliette and to his family. He agreed to a deal with prosecutors on April 8, pleading guilty to first-degree attempted murder and rape in return for a reduced sentence.
Just 21 at the time of the attack, Burnett said he was raised in a “God-fearing household,” by parents who are ministers. They sat stone-faced in the back row of the courtroom and an uncle was nearby.
“I was rebellious and disobeying to what I already knew was right,” he said.
Now he’s working to “inform the young brothers,” Burnett said, that “what you reap is what you sow.” He wished he could look at her, Burnett said, but was told not to.
“I pray that she does forgive me for the betterment of her soul,” he said. “I believe that justice is being served.”
Telling the court that he has three children, who he lost after a 2008 domestic violence conviction, Burnett’s voice broke as he recounted that he had been a single father for a while.
“I know for a fact I would never ever want for my kids or the women in my family what I did to her that day," he said.
Klapper stayed with the plea arrangement, saying he thinks sentencing hearings are cathartic for all involved in the case.
“I don’t know what a fair resolution of the case means when the victim suffers and continues to suffer,” he said.
After the hearing, Burnett’s father and uncle approached Juliette, whispering as if in church. The uncle apologized for this nephew’s act, the father hoped Juliette would forgive his son.
Klapper came out of his chambers, black robe removed, and shook Juliette’s hand, saying he hoped she would help improve the justice system for others.
“What a wonderful, strong woman you are,” he said.