What happened to the Rafay family one summer night in 1994 brought tragedy and mystery to a quiet neighborhood in Bellevue, Wash.
On July 13, just after 2 a.m., police were called to a crime that would take them 10 years to bring to justice. "It was a plan. A well-rehearsed, well-thought-out plan," say James Jude Konat, a senior deputy prosecutor in King County. He and a team of detectives have been haunted by this crime -- and the killers who got away.
The search for the truth would lead police to another country, through a web of intriguing clues. Could a screenplay that described a murder unlock the mystery? And in the end, would a sophisticated undercover operation, set up in the make-believe world of crime, catch the real killers?
Peter Van Sant reports on this mystery.
The story begins on July 13, 1994, with a call for help. Sebastian Burns and his friend, Atif Rafay, had stumbled onto a horrific scene. Atif's parents had been found murdered.
"There is nothing that I can imagine about my parents that could have justified anyone to do what was done to them," says Atif.
Sultana Rafay, Atif's mother, was the first to be killed. "I saw Atif's mom lying on the floor," recalls Sebastian. Atif's father, Tariq Rafay was the next to be murdered. "It was basically an overkill," says Det. Bob Thompson, who has been on the case since the night it began. "And it just looked like someone had hit him 40 or 50 times."
As the boys waited for help to arrive, a third victim, Atif's autistic older sister, Basma, was clinging to life, moaning in her bedroom. "It would make sense that she was murdered last because everybody knows she can't make a 911 call," says Konat.
Basma died at the hospital a few hours after the attack, taking with her the secret of who killed the Rafay family.
The Rafays had just moved to Bellevue from Vancouver, Canada. Sultana, who had a doctorate in nutrition, devoted her life to raising her gifted son and disabled daughter. Tariq Rafay was a structural engineer who had worked on buildings around the world.
Who would take the lives of this quiet family, and spare the life of their only son? Detectives began to look more closely at the crime scene.
In his 911 call, Sebastian said there was a "break in" when he reported what had happened that night. "Just looking at that room, you start realizing this looks like someone set it up," says Thompson. "Boxes were tipped over. Drawers were opened, but nothing appeared to have been gone through."
That night, when police asked what was missing, Atif said two things: his Discman and a VCR. "Someone murdered three people and took his Walkman and a VCR? I mean, it makes no sense," says Det. Thompson.
Detectives probed deeper into the case. Who were these two teenage boys who reported the crime?