A Fort Carson artillery officer charged in what a judge called an "extraordinary" series of crimes against children in El Paso County - including kidnapping and sexual assault - will face the allegations at a single trial.
First Lt. Aaron Gregory Lucas will be tried beginning Jan. 4 in nine encounters with 11 prepubescent girls, El Paso County District Judge David A. Shakes ruled Friday over the protests of Lucas' attorneys, who argued for five separate trials.
In most of the cases, Lucas, 32, is accused of exposing himself and coercing or trying to coerce the girls to touch his penis.
The victims - generally between the ages of 6 and 9 - allegedly were targeted at random in Colorado Springs, Fountain, and the unincorporated Stratton Meadows neighborhood between June 2010 and October 2012, a period during which Lucas also served a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan.
The crimes began shortly after Lucas was transferred to Fort Carson from Texas with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, according to investigators, who say there was a lull in such crimes while Lucas was overseas.
The allegations include a claim that Lucas lured two girls, ages 6 and 8, from a Colorado Springs lemonade stand on South Garo Avenue and offered them money to touch his genitals. Other girls reported being approached while walking home from school or riding their bikes.
Authorities say one of the victims, 8, was abducted on the street and forced into Lucas' vehicle. Although she denied being assaulted after her release near Fort Carson, nurses who examined her collected biological material from her genitals that matched Lucas' DNA, authorities say.
Shakes tossed a request by Lucas' attorneys to lower his bond, which is set at roughly $1.2 million, saying that the charges against him, if true, suggest the defendant may not be "prevent himself" from violating the law if released.
The judge also ruled that prosecutors will be allowed to introduce evidence that DNA analysis has also tied Lucas to the abduction and rapes of adolescent girls in Texarkana, Texas and Madison, Ala. Charges in those cases are pending.
The rulings marked setbacks for Lucas' attorneys, who argued that prosecutors had sought to group the cases together in a bid to convict Lucas on thin evidence.
At the conclusion of a lengthy motions hearing involving two days of testimony, Shakes offered a strikingly different assessment of the case, however, saying that the evidence strongly suggests the same person is responsible for all the assaults.
The judge cited eyewitness identifications from some of the girls, similarities in the descriptions they gave, and a DNA match in the El Paso County abduction case.
Lucas was linked to unsolved rapes in Alabama and Texas after El Paso County sheriff's investigators entered his DNA profile into the FBI Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). The system generated automatic "hits" tying him to the other crimes, authorities say.
He is expected to return to court Nov. 15 for a pre-trial motions hearing.