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Teen confesses to girl's brutal murder, evades death penalty

It's hard even for many seasoned veterans of the criminal defense system to fathom what could motivate the graphic murder of a young child. It's even harder to contemplate a child doing this to another child. When an alleged perpetrator of a violent crime in Colorado is under 18, they are eligible to be tried as a juvenile. This may result in a reduced sentence, as it did in the case of a 17-year-old teenager in Jefferson County, who confessed to the recent abduction, sexual assault and brutal murder of a 10-year-old girl, as well as the kidnapping of a female jogger last year.

During the trial, there was some debate about the teen's motives and underlying psychological makeup. The Westminster teen's criminal defense team focused on some concerns in his developmental history. The young man was diagnosed with ADD and a learning disability as a preschooler, and his mother had breathed paint fumes and fallen down a small concrete stairway while she was pregnant. He also had several head injuries throughout his childhood, and had been hospitalized for several intestinal surgeries before his sixth birthday. His father also left home when he was a toddler.

While these factors alone do not necessarily lead to violent tendencies, there were other warning signs of mental health issues or undetected childhood abuse. At age 12, the teen's stepmother facilitated treatment for his addiction to Internet child pornography. His records also indicate bizarre necrophiliac tendencies.

Since he was 17 at the time his crimes were committed, he automatically escaped the death penalty. In addition, his defense attorneys successfully argued for his parole after 40 years, due to his youth. However, the judge also added an additional 86 years to his sentence, for various crimes related to both the murder of the child, and the kidnapping of the jogger. The parole possibility is negated by this additional sentence.

Most people seeking criminal defense attorneys are faced with less severe charges than this teen. He managed to escape the death penalty due to being a few months' short of his 18th birthday, but was not able to successfully gain the possibility of parole. It is possible that additional, more qualified research into his childhood history and medical records could have uncovered a mental health diagnosis. This may have helped him get appropriate psychiatric treatment for his disorder.


Source: 
7 News, "Jessica Ridgeway case: Austin Sigg trial ends, he begins life sentence for murder" Author not given, Nov. 20, 2013

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