A two-week trial focusing on the night a 14-year-old boy was fatally shot at Memorial Park over a missing cellphone ended Thursday with guilty verdicts against the man charged with pulling the trigger.
An El Paso County jury convicted Riccardo Clinton Kirven, 33, on all charges, including multiple counts of first-degree murder, in the July 2015 death of North Middle School student Desmond Smith.
Fourth Judicial District Judge Larry E. Schwartz proceeded directly to sentencing, imposing two life terms plus 48 years in prison.
"This was a horrendous crime, and a really precious life was taken," Schwartz said.
The judge's remarks were the only show of brimstone at the sentencing, where families on both sides came together to weep and embrace - extending each other condolences.
"Definitely my heart goes out to both families," said Brian M. Smith, the father of the slain teen. "This isn't going to bring Desmond back."
The tragedy struck after 18-year-old Raymond Rogan Jr. went to Kirven, his uncle, and asked for help retrieving a phone that he said had been stolen. Rogan drove Kirven and several other teenagers to the park, where Kirven reached through the passenger side window with a .40-caliber pistol and fired several rounds at three teens, fatally wounding Smith in the back.
Kirven testified at trial that he fired in self-defense, saying he heard one of the teens emit a whistle and reach for a gun.
After five hours of deliberation, a jury rejected that claim. Kirven's dual life sentences stem from being convicted of first-degree murder under separate theories - one that he knew what he was doing, and the other that he didn't care whom he harmed when he opened fire. He was sentenced to 24 years each for trying to kill Smith's two friends, who weren't hit as they ran away.
Smith's supporters wore red each day as a show of solidarity during trial, but they stayed civil and empathetic with the Kirvens even as testimony stoked passions.
Relatives from opposing sides even prayed with each other in the hallway, said Amy Fitch, who prosecuted the case with Laurel Johnson.
"You don't see it very often," said Fitch, who noted that when the criminal case got under way, the Smith family told relatives of the other side, "It's not you, and we understand that."
"They are incredible," she added.
One of Kirven's court-appointed attorneys, Cynthia McKedy, said in court that his convictions would be appealed.
The killing sent shockwaves through the student body at North Middle School, where Smith's skills in basketball and football led to the nickname Headache - which he embraced with good humor. Authorities say his only crime was sneaking out of his house to hang out with friends the night he was shot. He also is survived by three siblings, his mother, Lateffa Smith, and stepmother, Precious Smith.
Brian Smith said the family's forgiving attitude will guide them through another trial in the case, scheduled for Oct. 3 - an otherwise "horrible" prospect. Accused of getting rid of shell casings afterward, Kirven's brother, Raymond Rogan Sr., is charged with accessory to murder and counts accusing him of being a habitual felon - which could result in a significant prison sentence.
His son, Rogan Jr., previously pleaded guilty to accessory to murder under a plea deal that sharply reduced his first-degree murder charges.
He was sentenced to six years in the Youthful Offender System in Pueblo at a September 2016 hearing where Brian Smith turned to address him personally.
"I forgive you," Smith told the teenager.