CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (CBS4) – Alec McKinney, one of the two Colorado teenagers charged in the STEM School Highlands Ranch Shooting, will be tried as an adult. The judge released the decision on Wednesday afternoon.
The May 7 shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch killed one student and injured eight others. Kendrick Castillo, 18, was killed in the shooting after he and two other students rushed one of the shooters who opened fire in the classroom.
Judge Jeffrey Holmes issued the decision Wednesday after hearing a week and two days of testimony from witnesses called by the prosecution and McKinney’s defense.
The defense tried to paint a picture of McKinney’s troubled childhood. His mother testified about his abusive father, Jose Quintana, who she said would beat her regularly in front of McKinney and his siblings. His counselors testified McKinney struggled with depression and adjustment disorder.
While the defense did not deny McKinney deserved to be punished, his attorneys asked he be sent to a juvenile facility where he could have better mental health resources.
But the prosecution called witnesses to show how McKinney is manipulative, and could receive sufficient mental health care in an adult prison if he needed it.
“Who hasn’t the defendant deceived or taken advantage of?” District Attorney George Brauchler asked in his closing arguments Wednesday, November 27.
Brauchler argued that McKinney deliberately planned the attack, explaining McKinney even told investigators, “I feel like I was doing people a favor, showing them the real world… my life would be easier if they were dead, but they don’t deserve that, they deserve to suffer, and live.”
The prosecution also called parents of the victims to testify, including Kendrick Castillo’s mother, Maria Castillo.
She told the courtroom, “I don’t have a life, (Kendrick) was my life… my life is over.”
In the seven-page ruling issued Wednesday, Judge Jeffrey Holmes explained the seriousness of the alleged crime, the violent intent of the crime, and the impact of the alleged crime on the victims were all factors in his decision for McKinney to be tried as an adult.
“The emotional and psychological impact of the offenses has included fear, anxiety, reluctance to return to school, decrease in trust of others, anxiety and depression,” Judge Holmes wrote. “The impact on the victims has been extreme and continues more than six months after the shootings occurred.”
Judge Holmes also said he considered McKinney’s maturity level and his likelihood of rehabilitation.
“Past performance does not provide persuasive evidence that McKinney will take advantage of services that are furnished,” the judge wrote. “He frequently failed to attend classes at the STEM school, he did not disclose the extent of his drug usage to his mental health providers, nor was he candid and forthcoming about matters related to his mental health to his mother or to his service providers.”
Wednesday afternoon, Kendrick’s parents, John and Maria Castillo, invited CBS4 to his final resting place to discuss their thoughts on the ruling.
Press play on the video above to watch John and Maria Castillo sharing their son’s final resting place.
Maria said she was grateful her testimony held weight in the judge’s decision.
“Everything that I said, it’s how I feel, and it comes from my heart, from a mother’s heart, that I will never see my child again,” she said.
John said he hopes the Colorado legislation will look at making school shooters automatically face adult charges in the future.
“So the sentence matches the crime,” John explained. “Since most of our school shootings are committed by juveniles, that needs to be sorted out.”
Until then, John said Wednesday’s ruling is a step in the right direction.
“Even though it’s a small win for us in this particular case, overall I hope that we can make positive changes across our country and in Colorado,” John said. “What we’re doing now is bringing justice for him and other survivors of this, and hopefully making long term change in Kendrick’s name. That’s all we can do.”
In September, a judge found that McKinney’s alleged accomplice, 19-year-old Devon Erickson, could be prosecuted on 44 charges that include murder and attempted murder.
McKinney is scheduled to appear in court again on Dec. 16 for an arraignment.
Last month, the judge determined that there was enough evidence for McKinney to stand trial for the deadly shooting.
District Attorney George Brauchler issued the following statement regarding Wednesday’s ruling:
“On behalf of the many, many victims and our community, I am satisfied and pleased that the court agreed that this mass shooting case should be resolved in adult court. I am grateful to the victims and their families for the patience and understanding they have shown as they navigate a challenging and often-times slow justice system. My office will continue to do all that we can to support them during this difficult time in their lives. It is my intention to move forward without any additional delay towards the jury trial to which the defendant is entitled. Justice remains our steadfast commitment.”