A 16-year-old Colorado Springs girl pleaded guilty today to manslaughter for shooting to death a man who was accused of sexually assaulting her.
As a result of a plea agreement, the girl will get two years' probation plus mandatory counseling when she is sentenced on May 25 in El Paso County juvenile court by Magistrate D. Denise Peacock.
The girl is currently in a residential treatment center in Denver. She has been in custody since July 13 when Colorado Springs Police arrested her on investigation of murder in the June 1 shooting of Jon R. Hazard whose body was found in a picnic area of Palmer Park. He was free on bond at the time.
Hazard, 43, died nine days before he was scheduled to stand trial. He had been accused of molesting the girl over a period of three years. When police arrested him and searched his home, investigators said they found several hundred sexually-explicit photographs and videos on his computer, including some of the girl.
The Gazette has withheld the girl’s name because the paper does not normally identify sexual assault victims.
The prospect of the girl not serving any time in prison for her guilty plea disappointed Hazard’s ex-wife, who had favored leniency for the youngster.
“I think there should be some sort of punishment there,” said Michelle Hazard Henderson, who divorced Hazard in 2000 and now lives in Texas with their two sons, ages 13 and 11. “I was asking for leniency, not complete and total forgiveness.”
“This has been a very odd situation for everyone,” Henderson added. “What he did to her was horrible.”
“I didn’t want her to get life or 50 years or even 10,” she said. But Henderson said she had hoped the girl would have been incarcerated at least until she turned 21.
Had the girl not met Hazard in the park that night and killed him, “he would have gotten a lot more time for abusing her than she would get for killing him,” Henderson said. She also questioned why the girl’s mother had allowed her to leave the house on the night of the shooting.
Previously, Henderson and her oldest son had sent letters to the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s office asking that the girl receive counseling and be treated like a victim as well.
“We both came to the conclusion that somehow it was self-defense and she did what she needed to do,” she told The Gazette in January. “We forgive her.”
The girl’s mother and grandparents were in the courtroom today as the youngster entered her plea, dressed in civilian clothes instead of the jail uniform she had worn at previous hearings. The girl’s lawyer, Ann P. Kaufman, declined comment after the hearing.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Kim Kitchen said the case was unlike any other that she has prosecuted. Prosecutors held off making a decision on whether to charge the youngster for several months while she underwent a series of psychological evaluations.
“We’ve worked a long time in coming up with this resolution,” Kitchen said. “I think it’s a good disposition.”