This past Friday in Colorado an almost unheard of rarity occurred. 16-year-old Alec McKinney pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for last year’s school shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch. McKinney, along with cohort Devon Erickson, started shooting up the school and before it was all over 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo was dead and several other students were injured.
McKinney was set to be tried as an adult prior to Friday’s guilty plea. McKinney pleaded to 17 counts which not only include the aforementioned first-degree murder charge but also six counts of attempted murder among various conspiracy and weapons charges.
McKinney could be sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 40 years under Colorado law which prohibits minors from being sentenced to life without parole. However, on one hand, McKinney could be sentenced to an additional 408 years behind bars for the various additional charges. But on the other hand, he could be entered into a specialized program after serving 20 years which could see him paroled shortly after.
A guilty plea is almost unheard of when it comes to school shootings. The only one I can remember off the top of my head is when Kenny Bartley originally pleaded guilty to killing his principal in the Campbell County School shooting. Even then, the plea was thrown out after the courts ruled Bartley had ineffective counsel.
McKinney is set to be sentenced in May. Meanwhile, Devon Erickson is still awaiting trial. Since Erickson was 18 at the time of the shooting, and the fact that he fired the fatal shot that killed Kendrick Castillo, he could be potentially facing the death penalty. While prosecutors have said that no deal has been offered to Erickson so far, I could see Erickson taking a plea to avoid a death sentence.