Juvenile STEM shooting suspect charged as adult

Cases remain suppressed for at least two weeks

Approximately three hours before they would attend a memorial service for their slain son, 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo, Maria and John Castillo sat in the front row of a Douglas County district courtroom during hearings for his alleged killers.
They are a strong couple, said 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler, who said they intend to be at every hearing for the suspects in the May 7 shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch, which also left eight other students injured.
The Castillos watched as two key revelations emerged during the May 15 hearing in Castle Rock, the second court appearances for the two suspects, Devon Erickson, 18, and Alec McKinney, 16.
First, their cases will remain suppressed for at least two weeks, meaning many details of the allegations against them remain sealed. Authorities have not released any information on a possible motive for the attack.
Second, Brauchler has decided to charge the juvenile suspect as an adult. Prosecutors filed formal charges against McKinney in court on May 15 and requested the juvenile version of the case be dismissed. Defense attorneys immediately discussed their request to transfer the case back to juvenile court.
Colorado Community Media did not name McKinney before the decision to charge the teen as an adult. Although he is referred to by his legal name of Maya Elizabeth McKinney on court documents, he goes by the name Alec, his attorney said.
On May 7, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office identified him as a male but said the next morning further interviews revealed McKinney to be female. His attorney told presiding District Judge Theresa Slade McKinney prefers male pronouns.
Both he and his co-defendant, Erickson, will return to court in June for status hearings as attorneys reconvene to discuss the ongoing investigation and what evidence is available in discovery.
From there, the court will schedule preliminary hearings.
Brauchler, in a media conference after the hearings, declined to comment on information about the case not discussed in open court because Slade chose to keep files sealed. That included the affidavit and probable cause statements.
But court records made available online earlier in the day show each suspect faced 48 charges going into the hearings.
Erickson faces a variety of murder charges, including first-degree murder after deliberation, first-degree murder with extreme indifference and attempted first-degree murder after deliberation.
He also was accused of burglary, arson, theft and providing or permitting a juvenile to possess a handgun, among other charges.
McKinney was charged similarly, along with possessing a handgun as a juvenile, among numerous other charges. Brauchler said he planned to charge him with first-degree murder.
In his first court appearance May 8, Erickson sat stooped deep in his seat, head hanging low and speaking only when Slade required he verbally answer a question. On May 15 he sat upright and peered at the judge through dark-framed glassed beneath hair half-dyed pink.
On May 15, McKinney entered the courtroom and smiled slightly at his attorneys. He did not speak except when responding to the judge, smiling again at attorneys after answering Slade's questions. At one point he appeared to look back toward his family, expressionless.
Brauchler opposed setting a status hearing between the May 15 appearances and a preliminary hearing. The status hearing calls for Erickson to be back in court June 7 and McKinney on June 14. Preliminary hearings have not yet been scheduled.
“We are only drawing out this process,” he said.
Defense attorneys for both suspects said they had not received any items of discovery and wanted time to review that information once it is made available. They expected it to be voluminous, said McKinney's attorney, public defender Ara Ohanian.
Slade granted the requests for status hearings so attorneys could be prepared best as possible, she said.
A portion of the STEM school where the shooting occurred May 7 remained closed off as of May 15 and under investigation, even as some students returned to classes. Brauchler said defense attorneys had been given access to the remainder of the site, which he described as about “97 percent” of the school.
He also had suggested unsealing case files except for the affidavit and probable cause statements. Defense attorneys requested the case remain suppressed to protect witness statements from being tainted by information made public if files were released.
After the hearing, Brauchler told media he had referred an investigation into a private security guard who worked at STEM to 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May after news reports surfaced that the guard may have fired his weapon in the direction of a sheriff's office deputy as law enforcement responded to the school May 7.
STEM School Highlands Ranch, Jessica Gibbs, Devon Erickson, Alec McKinney


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