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Details in slaying of soldier, wife emerge at hearing; suspect seeks transfer to juvenile court

September 24, 2013 Updated: September 25, 2013 at 5:51 am
photo - Whitney Butler and David Dunlap (Courtesy of Facebook)
Whitney Butler and David Dunlap (Courtesy of Facebook) 

A burglar ransacking a Colorado Springs home early this year fatally shot the homeowner as he arrived to check on a burglar alarm and then gunned down the man's pregnant wife when she came home a few minutes later.

Though attacked separately, Fort Carson Staff Sgt. David Dunlap and wife Whitney Butler died within a few feet of each other Jan. 14 in their front room on Bassett Drive on the city's east side, according to testimony by Colorado Springs police investigators.

An autopsy showed Dunlap died of a gunshot wound to the back of the neck. Butler, who was three months pregnant, was shot in the head.

The new details were heard in court Tuesday as a complex, multi-day hearing began for Macyo January, the teenager accused of killing the newlyweds just months after their arrival in Colorado Springs.

The proceedings - which continue Wednesday and are expected to conclude Thursday or Friday - will have significant consequences for January, who at 17 was charged as an adult but now seeks to have his case transferred back into Juvenile Court.

If approved, the transfer could shave years from a potential sentence, prosecutors say, though defense attorneys are expected to argue that the courts could craft an appropriate sentence if January is convicted of the murders in Juvenile Court.

According to Liz McDonough, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Human Services, which oversees the Division of Youth Corrections, the maximum sentence for juveniles is seven years, but judges in Colorado have ordered young offenders to serve a sentence in juvenile prison to be followed by a consecutive sentence in adult prison.

El Paso County District Judge Deborah Grohs is expected to rule later this week on the so-called reverse transfer hearing.

The request - which attorneys say is the first of its kind in El Paso County - was made possible by recent changes in the laws governing charging practices in crimes involving children. The judge also will rule whether enough evidence has been gathered to take January to trial for murder, and whether he is eligible for bond.

January is currently held without bond at the El Paso County jail.

Prosecutors also announced that January has already been charged with a series of other unsolved burglaries in Colorado Springs, including one case in which an elderly woman was beaten and robbed by an intruder in 2012 - then beaten and robbed again weeks later. Details of those crimes also will be heard during this week's proceedings.

Police witnesses on Tuesday described the frantic search for January, who they say was spotted by officers as he fled the victims' home after the murders with a pistol in each hand.

January escaped their patrol cars by running through a gap in a fence. He was arrested three days later after an investigation that led police to two apartments filled with stolen televisions, cameras and other electronic equipment.

Colorado Springs police detective Donald Chagnon disclosed a chilling timeline of the minutes leading up to the couple's deaths - one making clear that police were notified of the burglary by a home security company before the shootings occurred.

The couple's burglar alarm was tripped at 11:10 a.m., and their home security provider, ADT, left voicemail messages for Butler and Dunlap between 11:11 a.m. and 11:12 a.m.

At 11:35 a.m., Dunlap sent a text message to his wife saying that he was headed home to check out the burglary report.

Surveillance footage from a nearby store showed that Butler pulled into the couple's driveway at 11:50 a.m.

Five minutes later, her car can be seen rolling out of the driveway and into the street, apparently occupied by the intruder, who bailed from the car after it failed to start.

A neighbor called 911 at 11:59 a.m. and reported seeing two bodies inside the home.

According to testimony at an earlier court hearing associated with the murders, it wasn't the first time that day police were notified of trouble at the couple's home. ADT notified police of the burglary alarm around 11:30 a.m., but no officers were dispatched, Chagnon testified in February.

While police have declined to discuss their response in the case, they previously said they receive thousands of false alarms a year and do not have the manpower to respond to all home-security alerts.

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