Derek Lee Hernandez will spend the rest of his life in prison after a jury found him guilty Friday of killing a 22-year-old mentally impaired Colorado Springs man for his Xbox and leaving the body in North Cheyenne Canyon.
A six-man, six-woman jury took just under nine hours over two days to find Hernandez, 23, guilty on all counts including first-degree murder, conspiracy, aggravated robbery and robbery from an at-risk adult in the Jan. 5, 2009, slaying of Jason Holley.
Fourth Judicial District Judge Deborah Grohs immediately imposed the mandatory sentence, giving Hernandez two terms of life in prison without parole plus 32-years for the robbery. She described the murder as a senseless crime and added that the victim probably would have given Hernandez the Xbox if he asked for it.
“He (Holley) wanted to be your friend Mr. Hernandez. He would have done whatever you asked him and you took advantage of that,” Grohs said. “You tricked him into coming up to the mountains and there was no reason other than to take his life.”
Holley’s brother, Nikolaus Holley, read a statement thanking the prosecutors, medical staff and police who worked on the case and friends who helped the family.
“Rest in peace,” he said to his brother. “There are no words to describe how desperate we were when you went missing and (how) devastated we were when we learned of your senseless murder.”
Holley was diagnosed with Klinefelter’s syndrome, a genetic disorder that prosecutors said left him with the social skills and maturity level of an impulsive 11-year-old.
Detectives found Holley’s partially-clad remains four months after the murder when Kyle Stott, Hernandez’s co-defendant and brother-in-law, led them to a ravine off Cutler trail on May 8, 2009.
Stott is serving a life sentence after a separate jury convicted him of first-degree murder on July 16. The two men accused each other of stabbing Holley and nearly decapitating him with an ax.
Jury foreman David Cortez said the verdict was reached Friday morning after jurors took another look at a videotaped police interview in which Hernandez went from denying any involvement in the murder to describing the swooshing sound the ax made as Stott swung it at Holley.
As the verdict was read Friday, Hernandez bowed his head. Several of his relatives sat holding hands and sobbing on the bench behind him. One woman had to be led from the courtroom.
Before Grohs imposed the sentence, Hernandez turned to Holley’s family and asked for forgiveness. He then turned to the judge and said, “I would ask for mercy, but I know reality. You don’t have a choice.”
Grohs responded that not all murders are the same but added, “if ever there was a crime that called for life without parole, this is it.”
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