A Colorado Springs teen who pleaded guilty to participating in a 2011 home-invasion robbery in which an elderly couple was beaten and pistol-whipped was sentenced Friday to at least six years in a prison for youthful offenders.
Zvarres Keaton, now 19, was remanded to the Colorado's Youthful Offender System, a medium-security prison in Pueblo that emphasizes rehabilitation.
Under terms of the sentence, Keaton could face 32 years in adult prison if he fails to meet the program's demanding requirements.
The suspended prison sentence - part carrot and part stick - was imposed by 4th Judicial District Judge David A. Shakes. The judge called it Keaton's "last chance" to avoid spending much of his life behind bars. Keaton's plea agreement also allowed Shakes to sentence him to 21 years in prison, without the benefit of being placed with other young offenders.
"Don't make me regret these words," the judge said.
In handing down the sentence, Shakes said he considered the wishes of victims Dorothy and Dale Nachazel, who had initially requested a maximum sentence but ultimately petitioned the court to consider sending him to the prison for youthful offenders.
The couple, in their 70s, were attacked in their Colorado Springs home in October 2011 after a trio of males, including Keaton, summoned Dorothy Nachazel with an early morning knock on the front door, then barged in with guns displayed.
The elderly woman and her husband were pistol-whipped during the ordeal, though they offered "no resistance at all," said Colorado Springs robbery detective Clifford Gregory, who asked the judge to remember the viciousness of the assault.
Prosecutor Lisa Baldwin said Dorothy Nachazel underwent two brain surgeries and suffered permanent damage to her hand. She temporarily lost the ability to speak after the assault, but is continuing to improve her speech. The Nachazels have moved to another state.
Keaton, formerly a friend of the Nachazels' grandson, spent time at the home as a child and is blamed for picking the victims on the morning of the assault.
Baldwin asked Shakes to sentence Keaton to adult prison, invoking a series of juvenile convictions for increasingly violent offenses, including beating a classmate unconscious before stealing his shoes as the victim lay in seizures on the ground.
Shakes said programs offered by Youth Offender Services would be Keaton's best chance at curbing his violent behavior.
Co-defendant Darryl Lynch, 22, was convicted at trial earlier this year and sentenced this month to 44 years in prison. The third person implicated - 15 at the time - received two years' probation after pleading guilty. His name hasn't been released by authorities.