She will only allow me to call her "Teresa's partner," but most of us know her as the woman who has lived through a nightmare.

Share story

Her throat has been cut three … wait, four times.

That’s what I counted before I dropped my eyes, ashamed for my staring — but then, awed.

For out of that same, scarred throat came a beautiful voice, singing tender lyrics of love, devotion and remembrance.

“I could tell the story of your eyes Never … before has my heart been so wide.”

She will only allow me to call her “Teresa’s partner,” but most of us know her as the woman who has lived through a nightmare.

Last July 19, the woman and her partner, Teresa Butz, woke up to find a man standing in their South Park bedroom, holding a knife. For 90 minutes, he alternately raped and cut each of them, until Butz, 39, threw a nightstand through the window, creating a distraction that allowed her partner to run out the front door.

The attacker then stabbed Butz, who jumped through a window, ran from the house and died in the street.

Less than a year later, Butz’s partner, 37, is here in London Bridge Studios in Shoreline, preparing to record a song for “The Angel Band Project,” an album she calls “a musical reaction” to Butz’s murder.

Music seemed the natural outlet: Butz’s large family is full of musicians, and her partner was trained at the Boston Conservatory.

The album will be released in September, and all proceeds will go to the Voices and Faces Project, a national nonprofit that supports rape survivors.

The effort is being led by Teresa Butz’s brother, Tony Award-winning actor Norbert Leo Butz, who was in Seattle starring in the stage version of “Catch Me If You Can” at The 5th Avenue Theatre at the time of the murder.

Co-producers are Rachel Ebeling, a travel writer, and Jean Robertson, a copywriter, who grew up with Butz in St. Louis.

Funded entirely through donations, the album of original and cover songs is being recorded in St. Louis, New York, Chicago and now Shoreline.

“It’s not about what happened that night, but about what happened after,” Robertson said, describing how, at Butz’s funeral, her large, musical family and their friends spontaneously broke into “Down to the River to Pray” from the film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

“The singing at the funeral, the gravesite and the memorial even … in the midst of such sorrow, to have people perform like that was so moving,” said Robertson, who came to Shoreline from Chicago for the recording. “So the whole thing grew from that.”

Along the way, people stepped up to help. Singer Patty Griffin donated the rights to her songs “Goodbye,” and “Mary,” which was Teresa Butz’s favorite song. Both songs are performed by her brother — “Goodbye” on piano and “Mary” on guitar.

Chris Shepard, a Chicago-based sound engineer who has worked with Wilco, Smashing Pumpkins and Elvis Costello, is donating his talent — even overseeing the recording in the Butz family home in St. Louis, where three generations sang into the microphones while children ran around and babies jiggled on their knees.

“I fell in love with the project,” Shepard said.

Photographer Heidi Peters is donating her eye with portraits of the performers and shots of the recording. And the public is invited to donate money and “join the band” at

In between rehearsals in Shoreline, Robertson and Teresa’s partner shared memories of Butz’s loud clapping, her love of the St. Louis Cardinals, Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand (“She’d come on and Teresa’s hands would go right up,” her partner recalled). She was devastated when Michael Jackson died.

And she could talk to anyone, anywhere.

“She could walk into a bar in Peru, make friends with everyone and be invited to live in the village for a month,” Robertson said.

But Butz was afraid of small animals, like mice and raccoons, her partner said. “That was the irony of how she died,” she said. “She was so very brave.

“Teresa saved my life that night. It was a poignant gift to me, and I made a promise that I wouldn’t just survive, but thrive, and follow the dreams that we had.”

Isaiah Kalebu, 24, has been charged with aggravated first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree rape and first-degree burglary in the attack.

He recently was ordered to receive a mental-health evaluation at Western State Hospital and is scheduled to return to court June 9 to determine whether he is competent to stand trial. Teresa’s partner plans to testify, if she’s needed.

But for now, it’s time to sing.

“We are holding the good things near,” she said. “Teresa is gone, but not gone.”

Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or

They recorded “Alive” there, too.