An ex-Fort Carson soldier who admitted fatally stabbing a man during a home invasion in Colorado Springs was sentenced Friday to 62 years in prison, the maximum penalty he had faced under a plea agreement.
Daniel Newell's final act - cutting Kyle Sullivan's throat after he had already been knocked unconscious with a baseball bat - sealed his fate, 4th Judicial District Judge Marla Prudek said, describing the death blow as "cold" and "calculated."
"I don't believe that the person you are now, Mr. Newell, can be rehabilitated," she told him.
Newell's sentence was imposed after relatives of Sullivan, 29, paid tribute to him in court, recalling his kind spirit and mischievous smile and reliving their favorite memories of him through a slideshow presentation accompanied by music he loved.
Prosecutors say that Sullivan, a recent transplant to Colorado Springs, was asleep or lying quietly in a home on North 7th Street on April 16 when Newell and a second man broke in, intending to burglarize a basement marijuana grow that belonged to Sullivan's roommates. Although they believed the home would be empty, the men attacked immediately after spotting Sullivan in his bedroom. Newell's co-defendant, Michael Durante, knocked him down with a bat and Newell inflicted the fatal blow as he lay unconscious, authorities said. The men exchanged a "fist bump" while fleeing the home and later bragged of their exploits, according to trial testimony.
An El Paso County jury convicted Durante, 28, of first-degree murder in February, and he was sentenced to life without parole in prison.
Newell had faced 45-60 years in prison under a plea agreement. The judge imposed an additional 2 year sentence for a weapons violation related to a shank, or improvised blade, found in his cell at the El Paso County jail.
Joining in prosecutors' call for a maximum penalty was Sullivan's mother, LeAvis Sullivan, who noted that Newell selected a death sentence for her son.
In lobbying for leniency, Newell's attorneys described his "horrific" childhood in which he witnessed his sister's father's murder as a 2-year-old and was later consigned to the foster care system in California. At 17, he enlisted in the Army hoping to find stability. Instead, he was sent on a combat tour that left him struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The judge said Newell's past did little to cancel out his brutality and apparent lack of remorse.
"I can't consider what might have been had Mr. Newell had a different childhood," Prudek told the court. "I have to deal with who he is now."