Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay were convicted of a triple murder in Washington State. The two Canadian born teens would fatally beat Rafay father, mother and sister. The crime went unsolved for a good amount of time until DNA tied the two teen killers to the triple murder. The two would be convicted at trial and sentenced to life in prison however there remains a lot of doubt regarding whether or not their confession was coerced and whether or not they are guilty of this brutal crime
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A teen convinces his best friend to murder his family however years later questions still linger about the case
According to court documents Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns has been friends for years before the murders occurred. Atif and his family moved to Washington State but kept in close contact with Sebastien.
On July 12 1994 the two teenagers headed to the Rafay home and Sebastien Burns would murder the entire family with a baseball bat including Rafay father, mother and twenty year old autistic sister. Atif was suppose to participate in the murders but lost his nerve once they entered the home
According to prosecutors the goal of the triple murders were the half a million insurance policy and the money that would come from selling the family home
Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns were taken into custody and interrogated for three days before they were released
After the interrogation Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns fled to British Columbia Canada where Burns still lived. The RCMP, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who were cooperating with the police on the other side of the border would set up a sting where an undercover police officer would pose as a crime boss who would try to get the two to confess to the triple murders.
Nearly nine months after the murders new DNA evidence appeared which according to police tied the two to the murders. Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns would confess to a murder in order to avoid the death penalty however many believe it was a false confession.
At trial Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns were found guilty of the triple murders and sentenced to ninety nine years in prison. It took a long time before the two went to trial as they had to be extradited from Canada which has a policy not to extradite if the death penalty was a possible punishment. Eventually the prosecutor in the case promised the Canadian authorities that the death penalty would not be used.
Since the trial the two have tried repeatedly to get back into court to get their conviction reversed as they have stuck to their innocence.
Atif Rafay uses his time in prison to help other prisoners get their high school diploma. After spending years in solitary confinement Sebastian Burns has suffered from severe mental health problems
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Three innocence projects have now taken up the case of West Vancouver men Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns, who in 2004 were convicted of the 1994 slayings of Rafay’s parents and sister in their Bellevue, Washington home.
Former Vancouver teacher and writer, Ken Klonsky is director of Innocence International, founded by the late Rubin “Hurricane” Carter in 2004. He decided to take on the case after seeing a film about the case made by Burns’ sister.
“It appeared very similar, … the occurrences around both convictions had glaring similarities,” he told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn, referring to an earlier exoneration he was part of, the case of David McCallum. He spent 29 years in prison before he was exonerated for a carjacking murder he didn’t commit.
Klonsky believes that there’s not enough evidence to convict Rafay and Burns, and that the confession central to their 2004 conviction should be thrown out because it was a Mr. Big operation.
“There was no hard evidence, or forensic evidence, tying the defendants to the actual crime. For any innocence project, that’s number one on the list. Second, there were false confessions, brought about through actual or implied brutality. … So they were ready to say anything to satisfy these ‘gangsters.'”
Klonsky says there was also evidence leading to other suspects that was not followed up on and investigators developed tunnel vision on Rafay and Burns.
Klonsky says another problem Rafay and Burns faced was in the court of public opinion. They were simply not very sympathetic characters.
“The problem with Atif and Sebastian back then was they were intellectuals, and there’s a prejudice in society against young intellectuals,” he said. “I think the police felt like, ‘these guys aren’t going to outsmart us. We’re going to get ’em.’ And that’s why the RCMP was so willing to pick up the case when they came to Canada.”
Klonsky said he is confident of the pair’s innocence.
“There are maybe 65 or 70 innocence projects in the United States. Two of them took up Sebastian and Atif’s case before we did,” he said, mentioning the University of Washington’s Innocence Project Northwest and the Idaho Innocence Project.
He says one of the challenges any new trial or acquittal of Rafay and Burns faces is unearthing all of the evidence and having it tested.