The teenager who plotted and participated in a shooting at STEM School in Highlands Ranch was sentenced July 24 to life in prison plus 38 years. For a juvenile convicted of first-degree murder in Colorado, a life sentence includes with the possibility of parole after 40 years.
Douglas County District Court Judge Jeffrey Holmes sentenced Maya McKinney, aka “Alec,” to the sentence in the Colorado Department of Corrections. McKinney was 16 at the time of the shootings on May 7, 2019.
Student Kendrick Castillo was killed, and six other students were shot. Two additional students in neighboring classrooms were also injured.
“This is without a doubt one of the biggest crimes in the history of Douglas County,” District Attorney George Brauchler told the court during his sentencing argument. “This was intended to be a mass murder of historic proportions. … But the defendant didn’t count on the courage and bravery that day. He didn’t count on the heroes of Room 107.
“We know unequivocally that Kendrick’s purpose in life was to save those other children in that room.”
Numerous victims, family members and supporters gave impact statements during the all-day sentencing hearing.
“Please be mindful that our scar will never go away,” a father of one of the victims said in a prepared statement. “We may get used to the suffering, but the scar runs so deep, the pain will always be there … for the rest of our lives.”
“The defendant tried to murder my child. He was responsible for the murder of my son’s classmate and friend,” the mother of another victim said. The shooters “instilled terror on an entire community, and the ripples are endless.”
Both of Kendrick Castillo’s parents addressed the court.
“This killer took away everything I had,” his mother said. “I hope he never gets out. My son’s life mattered, and this evil killer needs to pay for what he did.”
Her husband also spoke.
“You took something away from me that can never be replaced. My only purpose in life was to provide for my family, and you took all that away,” he said. “But your plan didn’t work, because you are pure evil and you were met by good. You met Kendrick Castillo.”
He added: “My life ended May 7. But Kendrick wouldn’t want me to give up. We are not victims, we are survivors.”
McKinney pleaded guilty on Feb. 7 to 15 counts:
- first-degree murder in the death of Kendrick Castillo;
- conspiracy to commit first-degree murder after deliberation;
- 6 counts of attempted murder after deliberation
- attempted murder extreme indifference (this count is amended to name everyone who was not physically shot in room 107)
- second-degree assault (this count identifies the victims who were injured as a result of the security guard’s response to the active shooter situation)
- conspiracy to commit arson
- conspiracy to commit burglary
- conspiracy to commit criminal mischief
- 2 crime-of-violence sentence enhancers
Other charged counts were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
The prosecution team consisted of District Attorney Brauchler, Chief Deputy District Attorney Christopher Gallo, Chief Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Gleason, Chief Deputy District Attorney Chris Wilcox and Senior Deputy District Attorney Kristine Rolfes.
Charges are still pending against adult defendant Devon Erickson. Criminal charges are merely a formal accusation that an individual has committed a crime. Erickson is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.