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Man gets 65 years for drug robbery murder

December 13, 2013 Updated: December 13, 2013 at 9:30 pm
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A Delta man was sentenced Friday to 65 years in prison after admitting that he killed a man during a drug robbery at a downtown Colorado Springs hotel.

Michael David Brown, 28, received the maximum penalty available under a plea agreement he accepted this year in the March 15 slaying of James Klinger. Authorities say Klinger was dealing methamphetamine at the Clarion Hotel, 314 W. Bijou St., when a drug heist plotted by Brown and two co-defendants took a violent turn.

"You took away Mr. Klinger's future, and your future, with one pull of the trigger," 4th Judicial District Judge Gregory Werner said in imposing the penalty.

Brown had faced a sentence of 26 to 65 years under his plea agreement.

During a tearful address, he apologized to Klinger's survivors as they wept in court, and said he had been up for six days on a meth bender when his gun "went off" during what was supposed to be a bloodless robbery for drugs.

"I am so sorry," he repeated through sobs, saying he was ready to spend the rest of his life behind bars. "If that's what you think, and that's I deserve, then I should go."

His attorney, Cynthia McKedy, said Brown "panicked" during the encounter, and she tied the crime to Brown's nearly lifelong addiction to drugs and alcohol. Born to an abusive, alcoholic father who let him run "willy-nilly" without direction, he began drinking at 11 and branched out to meth and cocaine before turning 15, leading to repeated brushes with the law, she said.

"I just feel that Mr. Brown had a very unfortunate life with his upbringing," McKedy said after the hearing. "While drugs don't excuse anything, it's certainly what drove him."

Prosecutors said Brown's remorse was nowhere in evidence after the killing. He threatened to kill his co-defendants if they talked and later bragged to a jailhouse informant about earlier robberies of drug dealers for which he was never caught, prosecutor Natalie Mitchell said.

"He got what he deserved - justice," said Mitchell, who handled the case alongside District Attorney Dan May.

Though far from perfect, Klinger was a "sweetheart" who was gentle and supportive with his four younger siblings from a blended family, relatives said in their comments at sentencing, urging the judge to adopt the maximum sentence.

"His heart was big and bright, even if his head wasn't always in agreement," Leslie Klinger, a sister, said in a letter read in court.

Also charged in the killing were Swayde Monroe Jones, 35, of Delta, and Christopher Ryan Dickerson, 26, of Montrose. Each pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery. They are to be sentenced Jan. 9, and each faces 20-35 years in prison.

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