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"It's justice. I made my bed, and I'll die in it'

Published Mar. 12, 1993|Updated Oct. 9, 2005

It was an elaborate plan and Luther "Luke" Basse almost pulled it off.

But after a series of mistakes, police caught up with Basse, who provided the details they needed to charge him with the attempted murder of his ex-wife and the murder of her new husband.

"I did what I believed was right," he told police in a 2{-hour taped confession that was played during his trial on Thursday. "If it means I go to the chair, I'll walk to the chair. You won't have to handcuff me."

Basse, 33, outlined his plan and motive for Largo police officers a few months after the Dec. 15, 1991 home invasion and attack. Keith Yunk was killed, and Anita Yunk was left with an 8-inch slit in her throat, ax wounds to her head and a stab wound in her ribs.

Basse initially denied to police that he had anything to do with the murder. He said he was hunting elk near his home in Boise, Idaho. But, as detectives began talking about his children and the effect the crime was having on them, he began to break down.

Soon he was outlining an intricate plan to get custody of his children.

First, he would kill his ex-wife, Anita Yunk, and injure her husband. Then he would be supportive during his children's grief and take them to Idaho to live with him.

But the firefighter's plan went awry.

"I thought I was going to cut her throat and leave," he said, calling Keith Yunk a casualty of war. "I thought I could kill her and injure him. I hit him three times with the ax and he just kept coming.

"I felt bad I didn't pull it off and I couldn't go down there and hold the kids when they needed me."

When Basse's children were mentioned on the tape, Basse wiped his eyes and rocked back and forth in his chair. When his ex-wife and his reasons for killing her were mentioned, he nodded his head.

Basse told police he knew the system and thought he had planned the perfect crime.

In the tape, he outlined the following details:

He had flown, under a disguise and assumed name, to Florida on other occasions with the intent to kill Mrs. Yunk, who he thought was a bad mother and a terrible housekeeper. On a trip six months before the murder, he cut the phone lines and removed a window screen. But the timing was wrong, and he questioned whether it was the right thing to do.

After Mrs. Yunk would not let him see his children on one trip, he decided he must kill her because he did not trust the courts to give him custody.

"It was my fourth trip there," he said. "It wasn't like I got p----- off one weekend or something."

He bought a gorilla mask that he planned to wear during the murder, but his fiancee's son wanted the mask, and he knew he would have to dispose of everything he wore during the crime.

So he bought a ski mask and planned to wear a maroon jogging suit, so that when he left the scene he could pretend to be "a health nut" out jogging at 3 a.m.

Then he bought a hunting knife, a wig and a baseball cap and flew out of Salt Lake City under a name he got from the phone book. He took an airport limousine to the Yunk's neighborhood in Largo.

"I was in the house 20 minutes easy," he said. "I was cool. My adrenaline was flowing."

Inside, the cat started making noise, he said, and tried to keep it quiet. "I could have choked it," he said. "But I said, "Don't kill the cat _ that's the kids' cat. Don't mess with it.' "

Before attacking them, he said, "You made your bed, now you're going to die in it."

But the attack was harder than he had planned. They woke up and fought back. Mrs. Yunk hit him on the head with a baseball bat, momentarily dazing him, but adrenaline kept him going.

He left the house after Mrs. Yunk's oldest son came out of his room and Mrs. Yunk was getting her gun. He didn't want Jason to be shot in the cross-fire, he said.

He changed clothes on a golf course _ where he mistakenly left his ski mask _ stole a bicycle and rode it to Tampa International Airport, where he boarded a plane for home.

During the tape, Basse _ who faces the death penalty or life in prison if convicted _ made it clear he did not want to go to prison.

"I'm prepared to go to the firing squad," he said. "It's not suicide. It's justice. I made my bed, and I'll die in it."

A jury is scheduled to decide his fate today.

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