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Gazette Premium Content Colorado Springs teen headed for trial in adult court in slayings of newlyweds

By Lance Benzel Updated: November 20, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Calling his attitude "chilling" and his alleged crimes "brazen," an El Paso County judge on Thursday ruled that a teenager will be tried as an adult in the slayings of a Fort Carson soldier and his pregnant wife - meaning he will face a life sentence if convicted.

After a three-day hearing in 4th Judicial District Court, Judge Deborah Grohs rejected a request by attorneys for Macyo January to have his case sent back to Juvenile Court, where prosecutors feared he would face far lighter penalties.

In handing down her ruling, Grohs said January, who was 17 at the time of the Jan. 14 shootings of Fort Carson Sgt. David Dunlap and wife Whitney Butler, had repeatedly spurned opportunities for reform after a series of run-ins with the law beginning at age 14, making it unlikely he would be receptive to similar programs offered in juvenile institutions.

"He has failed at them. He considered them a joke. They did not faze him," Grohs said in detailing January's history of defiance, which includes a September 2012 escape from a group home, and the "cold, calculated" nature of his alleged crimes.

As part of a questionnaire January filled out while in custody with the Department of Youth Corrections, January once wrote that he would commit murder if "I could get away with it" - in what Grohs described as a "chilling" claim.

The judge added that had January been just four months older at the time of the offense, he would have been a candidate for the death penalty, a point made by lead prosecutor Jeff Lindsey in arguing against the transfer to Juvenile Court.

The ruling came after attorneys dueled in court over whether January would be amenable to treatment for his diagnosis of anti-social personality disorder, which is characterized by opportunism, criminal thinking and remorselessness.

Public defenders Noreen Simpson and Marcus Henson emphasized January's turbulent childhood, which included allegations of neglect and abuse by his birth mother, and argued that his underlying trauma hadn't been treated effectively.

Prosecutors Lindsey and Reggie Short said the defense failed to establish a link between trauma and January's alleged crimes, which include a series of break-ins in which a 71-year-old woman was beaten and robbed inside her home twice in four months and another in which a 15-year-old girl home sick from school was assaulted by a burglar.

The attorneys also clashed on details of Colorado's changing penal codes for juveniles. Prosecutors elicited testimony that, had the case been transferred to Juvenile Court, January would be eligible for a sentence no greater than seven years and would have to be released from custody at age 21.

Simpson countered that under changes in the law that took effect in June, a juvenile judge would have the discretion to impose "indefinite consecutive sentences" for a murder conviction.

At any point during his incarceration in a juvenile facility, January could be transferred to an adult prison to serve out a sentence up to life behind bars, Simpson said. Lindsey questioned her interpretation after the hearing, saying he believed the new laws wouldn't apply because they became law in Colorado after the crimes for which January was charged.

The so-called "reverse-transfer hearing" was part of a multiday hearing that also included Groh's finding that prosecutors had established probable cause to hold January for trial in the crimes. She ordered that he remain held without bond at the El Paso County jail.

If convicted as an adult, January faces life in prison with the chance at parole after 40 years.

Parents of the newlyweds welcomed the judge's rulings, saying after the hearing Thursday that January didn't deserve another break.

Missing eligibility for the death penalty by four months was the only "leniency" January deserved, Butler's father, Kevin, told reporters.

In searing comments to the court, the grieving father pointed out that in burgling the couple's home, January would have seen the nursery prepared in expectation of their first child, a girl they intended to name Riley Marie.

"He had to know there was a child in the picture, yet he showed no remorse," he said.

Kevin and his wife, Marie, arrived in Colorado Springs on Sunday, on what would have been their daughter's first anniversary.

"I don't know if I'll ever be able to wrap my hands around it," Marie Butler said, calling the deaths a "parent's worst nightmare."

In addressing the court, Dunlap's mother, Marilyn, struggled to maintain composure, sobbing as she said her son and daughter-in-law were murdered in cold blood "over things that don't count, things that can be replaced."

Calling January "evil," she cut short her address and stormed from the courtroom, leaving in her wake an eerie silence and a gallery filled with tearful spectators.

In her absence, January, who sat impassive through much of the testimony, leaned onto the defense table and began to weep, gripping a tissue in handcuffed hands.

Police say Dunlap and Butler were fatally shot upon surprising a burglar in their home. According to police testimony, the newlyweds arrived separately to investigate a burglar alarm reported by their home security company at 11:10 a.m. and were killed one at a time after walking through the front door, each shot from behind. Lindsey said the evidence suggested Butler was shot in the head as she kneeled over her husband's body.

January is scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 21, at which time a trial will be scheduled.

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