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Tuesday, March 28, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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A wallflower quietly mutates into mass killer at "blue house"

Seattle Times staff reporter

It was dark and loud at the Capitol Hill Arts Center, perfect for a party dubbed "Better Off Undead." Some ravers showed up in costume, smeared with fake blood and ghoul makeup. Rolls of toilet paper flew through the air, littering the dance floor.

By 3 a.m. Saturday, Jesiah Martin was snaking his way through the crowd spreading the word: party at his house. Jesiah and his five roommates are well-known in the world of electronic music — as DJs and after-party hosts, giving ravers a place to unwind from a night of dancing.

Eighteen-year-old Lane Storli said Jesiah approached him and held up his cellphone: 2112 East Republican was on the screen.

Storli and his friend Chris Williamson took Jesiah up on his offer, and by 3:30 were among the first guests to arrive at what some simply call "the blue house."

Kyle Huff wasn't part of the rave crowd. In fact, no one could remember seeing him before. But in the spirit of the night, where everyone is welcome, he too headed over to the house after the rave shut down about 4 a.m.

"We invited some people over. Most of them we had seen around at events and knew; some, like Kyle [Huff], seemed like the kind of wallflower that might be into hanging out, make some new friends," said Martin in an e-mail to The Seattle Times.

Huff didn't exactly fit in. He was dressed in jeans and a green sweatshirt and acting reserved, drinking bottled beer instead of from the keg, and not doing much talking.

Every time Storli saw Huff, he was standing silently in the same spot, by the refrigerator.

"He looked a little tired but he was smiling," Storli recalled.

Ian Gill, who lived in the house, approached Huff. The two chatted amiably as Huff took a couple of puffs of marijuana, according to Ben Grad, 29, a longtime friend of Gill's.

Gill thought Huff "was perfectly friendly and normal," Grad said. He was a big guy who seemed like he was from a small town.

Roger Platt, who came to the party, said Huff didn't talk much but listened intently to others' conversations. One thing stood out to Platt as fairly odd.

"I'd walk by him and he'd say, 'What's going on here? What's really going on?' " Platt said. It happened three or four times, Platt recalled. "I thought he was just messing around at the time. Now that I think about it, it seemed kind of creepy."

Storli left around 5:30 a.m. and knows he could easily have been among Huff's victims, six of whom died.

Platt left about 6:45 a.m. with a girl who said she needed directions back to the freeway. He, too, considers himself lucky.

Meanwhile, neighbors had begun waking up. Bonnie Morrison, who lives about a block away, remembers seeing a number of people on the front porch smoking when she went out to walk her dog about 6:30 a.m.

Not long after that, Huff slipped out of the house and walked to his pickup, parked nearby. About 15 to 20 people were still in the house. Some had gone to bed, and others were just hanging out.

About 7 a.m., one neighbor reported opening her curtains and seeing a big man walking down the street with what looked like a big stick in one hand and a can of spray paint in the other. He paused, stooped over and sprayed the sidewalk. "Now," he wrote. A few steps later, he stopped and sprayed the message again in orange paint. And finally a third time he stopped and scrawled "Now," before tossing the can on someone's front steps.

Jeremy Martin, no relation to Jesiah Martin, had left the party and stepped outside on the front porch where he liked to smoke.

Huff aimed his shotgun and fired, striking Martin in the chest.

"His friends told me he opened the door to say 'call 911' and then collapsed," said Becky Martin, Jeremy's mother.

Huff shot another person out on the front steps.

Neighbors on all sides, waking up to a sunny morning, began frantically calling 911.

The chaos inside the blue house was just beginning.

Some guests tried unsuccessfully to stop Huff from coming through the door. As he barged in, some took cover behind furniture. Others hunkered down in the basement. At least three people dialed 911 on their cellphones, one whispering to dispatchers: Send help now.

Huff moved calmly, according to Jesiah Martin, who said he was in the kitchen on a computer. At one point, Huff reached over and turned up the music, Martin said.

Others said Huff sounded almost flip as he walked through the house, stating there was enough ammunition for everybody.

Martin said he scrambled out the back door, with several others.

Huff climbed the stairs. He tried the bathroom door.

Garry Will and his girlfriend were inside. The two had been talking, when suddenly they heard the screaming. "I thought someone was joking. Then we heard gunshots," said Will's girlfriend, Alissa, who would not give her last name.

Will had locked the door.

"He shot a round through the door and the bullet whizzed by my face," Will said. "We thought we were going to die, plain and simple."

They climbed into the bathtub and called 911.

The sound of sirens could now be heard. Huff headed downstairs. There, he pointed the gun at another man, who reportedly pulled all the money from his pockets and threw it at Huff, begging him to stop, according to that man's friend.

The sirens came closer, and Huff turned from the man and headed outside.

Police Officer Steve Leonard was the first on the scene, about a minute after the first 911 call.

According to Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, Leonard positioned himself between a victim who had staggered outside and the gunman and gave the standard police command.

"Stop, drop your ... "

It was all the officer could get out. Huff put his shotgun to his mouth and pulled the trigger.

Five other people were mortally wounded and another was later pronounced dead at Harborview Medical Center. Another two lay seriously wounded and were taken to the hospital.

The police now say Leonard may have saved countless lives.

"We don't know how much worse it could have been," said Seattle police spokesman Sean Whitcomb.

Staff reporters Christine Willmsen, Sara Jean Green, Jennifer Sullivan, Christine Clarridge and Ben Romano contributed to this report. Maureen O'Hagan: 206-464-2562 or mohagan@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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