Man convicted of killing roommates back in 2010 wins appeal; will represent himself in new trial

Robert Tatum

MILWAUKEE -- After two brutal murders, there was a confession and conviction -- but the killer is getting a new trial, and asking a judge for his freedom. Some are concerned about what will happen when Robert Tatum gets his new day in court.

"The charisma, abilities he had," said Justin Ippoliti.

Justin Ippoliti's brother Kyle was a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee junior in the business school. Rahim Abdella was an intelligent and devoted father.

Kyle Ippoliti

"Rahim was the most happy-go-lucky. I remember him as a 'Tigger'-type personality: bouncy, happy," said Justin Ippoliti.

Rahim Abdella

Kyle Ippoliti bought a house and roomed with Abdella, along with a third roommate -- Tatum.

"I just think he had a lot of deterioration in that way and I don't think in his correct state of mind. Kyle was his friend. They were good friends. He just went on a really debilitating road with his mental health," said Justin Ippoliti said.

The year was 2010, at a house near Richards and Wright. After Tatum stopped paying rent, he was told he needed to leave. A criminal complaint says Tatum took a shotgun and killed Abdella and Ippoliti. Ippoliti was 21 years old. The complaint says Abdella's 1-year-old baby girl was found near the double homicide scene -- playing with one of the shotgun shell casings. The baby was covered in blood from the murders.

 

Tatum later told police, "It's true, I did it. Really I didn't want to do it, but God told me to do it." He was convicted and sent to prison.

Justin Ippoliti

"There should not be one day where he's out to do that again," said Justin Ippoliti.

Kyle's brother sat through the trial seven years ago. This month, he will do it again.

Tatum filed motions and briefs -- handwritten from his prison cell. He alleged, among other things, that he was not allowed to represent himself in court. The 7th Circuit Court agreed. Now, Tatum is getting a new trial.

"He's obviously a very intelligent guy and has nothing else to do but spend his days attacking this," Justin Ippoliti said. "Anything can happen once he has that trial and he communicates the right thing to the right person. He could be out there again. I think that would be very, very concerning, not only for my family but anyone in the community."

Robert Tatum

Robert Tatum

Ippoliti and others believe Tatum suffers from mental illness, but has never pleaded insanity.

Two years ago, the Department of Corrections recorded video of Tatum at the Boscobel Secure Detention Facility. They said he was not following rules and was disruptive.

Robert Tatum

"What's going to stop him from doing what he's done and hurting more families?" Justin Ippoliti said.

Tatum plans to represent himself in his upcoming trial at the end of January. On Friday, Jan. 12, he's expected to ask a judge that until that time, he be set free.

Robert Tatum