The older of two suspects in the STEM School shooting in a Denver-area suburb that killed one student and injured eight others was convicted Tuesday of first-degree murder and dozens of other charges.
A Douglas County jury found Devon Erickson, 20, guilty of all 46 counts he was charged with following several hours of deliberation and a three-week trial that featured testimony from dozens of witnesses, including his accomplice, Alec McKinney, who is serving a life sentence plus 38 years after pleading guilty to first-degree murder and other charges last year.
Erickson now faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is due to be sentenced later this year following a presentencing investigation.
On May 7, 2019, authorities say McKinney and Erickson opened fire in a British literature class at the Highlands Ranch school, killing 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo, one of the students who rushed the older shooter to try to stop him, and injuring several others.
McKinney, who was 16 at the time of the shooting but charged as an adult, said he and Erickson had planned the shooting together, while the defense argued that Erickson was manipulated into participating.
Last week, in his first public testimony since the shooting, McKinney told the jury that the plan was to blame him for the plot and then for Erickson to kill him, saying, "I didn't really care about my life nor what was said of me after I was gone," the Denver Post reported.
"The end of the plan, after everyone was dead, he was going to shoot me to make it look like he attempted to save everyone, and ultimately he wanted to come off as the hero,” McKinney testified, according to the Post.
Speaking to reporters after a judge announced the jury's verdict, Kendrick's father, John Castillo, said hearing each guilty conviction read "was a release."
"It's truly a blessing to hear that justice was served," Castillo said. "We’ll never quit missing him, we'll never quit honoring him. And this day is justice for him."
Mitchell Kraus, one of the students who was shot and testified during the trial, said hearing the verdict felt like "a weight off my back," saying that now he could move on with his life without worrying about the possibility of Erickson getting released.
John Kellner, the district attorney for the 18th Judicial District of Colorado, explained that the presentencing investigation will help memorialize information about the case in the event that Erickson applies for clemency down the road "to ensure that this defendant is never getting out of prison again."