In New Orleans on January 31, 2015, a cab driver picked up a young man with three cellphones. He was talking on speaker on one of them, telling a man with a heavy accent that he had to get out of town. The guy said he needed a new phone, too, and asked the driver if he could buy hers, but she refused.
A few days later, the man in the back of her cab would be arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, for the murder of his parents and five-year-old brother. After pleading guilty to killing his three family members, this week 20-year-old Isaac Tiharihondi was sentenced to life in prison. Exactly what motivated the violence against Tiharihondi's family is still unclear.
The people to last see his family alive and to last speak to Tiharihondi all seem to have had conversations revolving around Tiharihondi's plans to join the U.S. military. He'd gone out to lunch with a family friend named Nancy, who offered to take him shopping afterward for a few things he might need, but Tiharihondi told her he needed to pick up his little brother from kindergarten; police would find that his little brother did not show up for school that day.
According to court records, a neighbor had asked Tiharihondi on January 29, 2015, when he was going to report for duty, and Tiharihondi told him he would be heading out the very next day. Police would find that the U.S. Marine Corps has no record of Tiharihondi ever enlisting.
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And when Tiharihondi's brother, Emmanuel Ahimbisibwe, the surviving member of the family, last spoke to his parents and brother by phone from California, Tiharihondi also told him about how excited he was to leave for the Marines that week. When Emmanuel spoke to his mom, Dorcus, she told him that she and his father, Israel, an Episcopal priest, believed their son was lying about the military, and they had planned to confront him. It's the only apparent, though uncertain, motive that police have found for the triple murder.
Family and friends of Tiharihondi told KHOU reporters this week that they believed Tiharihondi may have suffered from mental illness, possibly caused by a head injury that left him in a coma for several days when he was six, or concussions sustained from once falling off a cliff and from years of playing football. Any illness, his attorney said, was never professionally diagnosed.
While Tiharihondi was on the run in Louisiana and Mississippi, an apartment maintenance man found the three slain family members dead in a bathroom. Police determined that the parents had been bludgeoned with a bat, a lamp and a hammer. Tiharihondi's five-year-old had been stabbed with a kitchen knife.