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Disa's First Two Strikes: '04 Attack on Former Lover and New Boyfriend

Suspect in death of Benicia's Katherine Gillihan was paroled in 2008, having served time for felony assaults.

The live-in boyfriend suspected of murdering Katie Gillihan in her Benicia home two weeks ago had been imprisoned for a knife attack on a former girlfriend and her new boyfriend in a San Jose apartment in 2004, according to police reports.

When police asked why he had stabbed the boyfriend, Adam Wade Disa said, "Because they broke my heart."

Disa, 28, pleaded no-contest to two charges of felony assault with a deadly weapon for the 2004 attacks. Because of those crimes, he's now being charged under California's "three strikes and you're out" law in Gillihan's death, said Dane Neilson, the Solano County deputy district attorney handling the murder case. 

San Jose police classified the 2004 attacks "domestic violence," but Neilson, who prosecutes many high-profile cases for Solano County, said that did not affect how the Gillihan case is being handled. It was the serious nature of the crime that led to the decision to treat the case as a third strike, he said.

Disa’s lawyer, Solano County Chief Deputy Public Defender Oscar Bobrow, did not return calls or an e-mail request for a comment on Disa’s previous crimes.

was inconclusive on the cause of Gillihan's death, but based on statements made by Disa the night of his arrest, Benicia police said was killed in a physical altercation with the suspect Feb. 9 or Feb. 10. The Solano County Coroner's Office is awaiting results of toxicology tests.

Disa has and a preliminary hearing will be held April 18 to determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to go to trial.

When the April 22, 2004, attack occurred, Disa was 22. He and his ex-girlfriend had broken up  two days after Valentine's Day, ending a relationship of more than four years, according to police. They had been living together a few blocks from San Jose State University and agreed to stay in the apartment until the lease ran out, each using the unit for a week at a time. 

One night, during his ex-girlfriend's week in the apartment, Disa told police he hid in a hallway closet for more than six hours, waiting to attack the couple while they slept.

At 3:30 a.m., he said he emerged and stabbed the boyfriend, whom he'd known since seventh grade, inflicting numerous wounds to his face and upper body with a steak knife. The ex-girlfriend was unharmed, though Disa admitted he tried to stab her.

Asked what was going through his mind as he waited in the closet, police reported that Disa told them he had felt betrayed by the couple. He said he hadn't been able to sleep more than five hours at a time since the breakup and had been having bad dreams. He said he had been contemplating revenge and started to think seriously about it a few days before the attack.

During the attack on the boyfriend, Disa injured himself when the knife he was using cut tendons in two of his fingers. 

When police asked if he meant to stab the woman, Disa said, "Yes sir. After I stabbed him the second or third time, I tried to stab her, but that's when I noticed I couldn't use my fingers on my hand. That's when I think the knife slipped and I cut my hand." 

When his interrogator asked whether was trying to kill the couple, Disa said, “I don’t know, sir. I was hoping someone would get hurt.”

The ex-girlfriend called 911 while her boyfriend fought with Disa, who was passed out when police arrived. Disa was arrested at a hospital where he was being treated for the wound to his hand. 

On June 16, 2004, he entered a no-contest plea to the charges and was sentenced to five years in state prison and a $2,000 fine. He was released on parole in 2008.

Disa and Gillihan met at Rasputin Music in Vallejo, where both worked. Feb. 11 in her townhouse at 804 Military East in Benicia.

How much Gillihan knew of Disa's past isn't clear. David Anderson, a former fiancé and close friend of Gillihan, said he knew Disa had been charged with assault but never asked for details.

, Robert Stalknecht, said she told him some of the details of Disa’s past. According to Stalknecht, Gillihan said, “ … it wasn't the most peaceful relationship in the world.”

She said he was on probation for a felony, that he had beat somebody up or something, Stalknecht said. “ 'Mashed his face in,' I think was the term she used.  So he obviously wasn't a nonviolent person.”

JB Davis February 27, 2011 at 04:00 PM
Ken, We don't really know what Katie knew nor do we really know her accused attacker. Also, let's remember that sometimes it's men who are attracted to abusive partners.
Kim Boughton March 02, 2011 at 10:44 PM
I pray that God gives the family strength during this difficult time.... My heart goes out to you. Coach Kim.....
Winter April 02, 2011 at 02:27 PM
Let us all remember the accused attacker is innocent UNTIL found guilty in trial. These news stories seem to conclude Adam Wade Disa is guilty of killing Katie. He is NOT -- he is still an innocent man who pleaded 'not guilty' at his hearing. When your Summons for Jury Duty arrives, take pride that we are a country with a judicial system that attempts to fairly evaluate whether this man was responsible for the death of Katie based on the work of the police, the District Attorney, and the accused's lawyers. Furthermore, whether or not Katie understood the severity of this man's past crimes is irrelevant -- how many young women and men can fully comprehend this information? After all, Rasputin Music hired him as an employee and must have known about his parole status and surely would have protected their young employees had they felt there was danger. Sadly, Katie is dead and Adam Wade Disa is an innocent man awaiting trial where it will be determined his involvement in her death. And we continue to be a country without adequate mental health treatment.
JB Davis April 02, 2011 at 06:34 PM
Winter, All good points and well taken. As an editor and a reporter I have an obligation to present facts in as balanced a way as possible. To that end I have requested interviews with Adam Disa's family and with him but so far there has been no response. I'm guessing this is his lawyer's advice. Thank you for your comments.
Dune DiCarnage September 21, 2011 at 11:27 PM
I knew Katie personally, and I know that she was not the abusive type. She'd come a long way over the last few years, but there's the possibility that she was attracted to this guy because of a latent self-destructive bent. In truth, I don't know how i feel about Disa's guilt or innocence in having a part in Katie's death, but I'm extremely disturbed by his post-death behaviour. Any idea what the outcome of this case was?

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