An 18-year-old guilty of stabbing his stepfather to death in October will serve his sentence in the Colorado Youthful Offender System instead of doing time in prison.
Avery Jackson pleaded guilty in late March to second-degree murder, and under the terms of a plea deal, he will be sentenced to six years in the medium security prison in Pueblo that puts an emphasis on rehabilitation.
If Jackson fails to successfully complete the program, he could serve 20 years in the Department of Corrections.
The teen was 17 when he killed his stepfather, 34-year-old Norzell Badger Jr., in a 2 a.m. family dispute that escalated into a fatal stabbing in front of Badger's two young children.
Jackson and his younger brother were arrested after the killing.
His brother was released into his mother's custody about a week after being detained at Spring Creek Youth Services Center in Colorado Springs. He pleaded guilty in January to misdemeanor assault. Judge Larry E. Schwartz accepted Jackson's plea deal Wednesday afternoon after hearing testimony from friends and family in addition to the victim's mother, Christina Badger. His decision to accept the plea, which he called "favorable," drew a sigh of relief from tearful friends and family members.
At the hearing, those who know Jackson described him as a sweet and well-liked teenager who was a victim of domestic violence and abuse. They also described him as a caring, responsible father.
"He's missing out on his son's first words, walking, holding him," his mother, Robin Jones, told the court tearfully.
Jackson's younger brother asked the court to give him an opportunity to turn his life around. "Everybody messes up," he said. "Some people need a second and third chance in life."
A remorseful and teary-eyed Jackson apologized to friends and family, calling himself less of a man for engaging in the deadly fight.
"I never meant for this to happen," he said. "Those two kids deserve to have a dad, just like any other kid.
"No kid deserves to see something like that happen. That's going to be a hard thing for them to live with. And I am truly, truly sorry for that," he told the court.
He also apologized to his mom for taking away her longtime boyfriend.
"Y'all went through hell and back," he said. "You had love. I took him away from you. I'm sorry," he said.
"You had no control over us that night. You had no control over us."
While Badger's mother didn't think the plea deal was fair, she told Jackson that she didn't harbor animosity toward him. "You've got to change your life around. Change it around," she told him. Jackson said he hoped his family could forgive him.
"I lost a lot more than everyone thinks. I lost my life when Zell lost his," he said. 'I'm sorry that I put that pain on people's hearts."
Gazette reporter Lance Benzel
contributed to this report.