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Prosecutor: Teen to be tried as adult in double homicide

January 18, 2013
photo - Macyo Joelle January  Photo by Courtesy of CSPD
Macyo Joelle January Photo by Courtesy of CSPD 

Macyo January spent three days hiding from police after he allegedly shot and killed a decorated Fort Carson soldier and his pregnant wife Monday. On Friday, the 17-year-old sat slumped forward in El Paso County Youth Court, facing adult criminal charges for murder.

And the friend who is accused of helping hide January was arrested on suspicion of accessory to first-degree murder, police said Friday.

At a brief detention hearing Friday, the slender-framed teenager with close-cropped hair bit his lip and nervously glanced about the courtroom, under the watchful eyes of a Colorado Springs police investigative team and red-eyed relatives of the victims sitting in the gallery. January is likely to be charged with first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Army Staff Sgt. David Dunlap, 37, and his wife, Whitney Butler, 35. Authorities say the couple were fatally shot after surprising a burglar Monday at their new home in Colorado Springs.

Dunlap, an Iraq war veteran who was part of Fort Carson’s new aviation brigade, arrived in the Springs with his new wife in November after Dunlap was transferred from a previous posting in Texas. A friend told The Gazette that Butler was three months pregnant.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Lindsey, who oversees homicide prosecutions in El Paso County, informed the court his office intends to file adult criminal charges when January returns to Youth Court on Wednesday. In the meantime, January will be held at Spring Creek Youth Services pending a bond hearing, El Paso County Magistrate Denise Peacock ruled.

The magistrate also appointed public defender Marcus Henson to represent January; prosecutors have moved to seal arrest papers in the case, Henson said in court.

A whirlwind week of around-the-clock detective work began at 11:59 a.m. Monday, when police got a call reporting two people lying on the floor of a home at 222 Bassett Drive and a bullet hole through one window. Shots had been heard, and witnesses saw a man try to steal a car, police were told.

Two hours later, Monique Reetz, who lives at the nearby Timbers Apartments on Airport Road, got a call from January, a friend of her boyfriend’s — he needed a ride to her boyfriend’s apartment off East Bijou Street, according to court documents. When Reetz picked him up, January was carrying a white plastic bag, but she didn’t know what was inside, Reetz told police. The two barely talked on the drive to Bijou Street, Reetz said, and January asked her to call and tell Jerel Couch, her boyfriend, that January was coming over.

Couch, 19, had known January for at least a couple of years, according to court documents.

It’s unclear what led police to Reetz, but an interview with her led them to Couch’s apartment.

Police began watching the apartment at 3965 E. Bijou St. and saw Couch leave Thursday, court documents say. Couch denied living in the apartment and told police that he hadn’t seen January in months.

Police continued to watch the apartment and on Thursday evacuated nearly all residents because they believed January was inside. They got him to walk out into their custody about 6 p.m.

Police also arrested Couch, who is being held as an accessory to first-degree murder, in addition to two adults and one juvenile. The adults, Eric Wilson, 21, and Christopher Cobb, 24, are not facing charges in the double homicide; the juvenile, another 17-year-old, is wanted on suspicion of shoplifting, police said.

El Paso County Magistrate William Trujillo raised bond for Couch from $2,000 to $25,000 pending a bond hearing.

January has had repeated brushes with the law and has been implicated in thefts involving Wilson and Couch, according to court documents.

Buck Small-Elk, who lives on Maxwell Street, said January grew up in the Stratmoor Valley neighborhood, east of the Interstate 25 and South Academy Boulevard interchange. Small-Elk said it is hard to believe that January is connected to the killings of Dunlap and Butler.

“It was shocking when I saw it on TV,” Small-Elk said Friday. “He was a real good kid when he was a heck of a lot younger. Him and his brother were always at my house helping with work in the yard. All they wanted was a pat on the back.”

Small-Elk said Macyo began “getting into trouble” a short time before 2010, when the man filed a restraining order against January for bullying and beating up the son of a woman who was living with Small-Elk at the time.

January attended Harrison School District 2 schools “at times” from kindergarten through his freshman year of high school in 2010, district spokeswoman Christine Lyle said Friday. January appeared to have dropped out of school after one year at Harrison High School. After 2010, the boy’s name no longer appeared on the district’s records, Lyle said.

Wilson and Couch have known January for at least a couple of years, according to court documents. Both are mentioned in a December 2010 arrest affidavit that connected January to a robbery in which two hooded robbers were seen running through the Stratmoor Valley neighborhood carrying a 42-inch flat-screen television.

According to the affidavit, January was found in Wilson’s home on Wooddale Road in the same neighborhood and admitted to trading “some chronic (high-quality marijuana) to someone named ‘Jason’ for the television.” January was arrested on suspicion of theft by receiving. Couch was connected to the robbery when a girl reported that one of the hooded robbers walked like Couch, her ex-boyfriend. The girl connected Couch to January, saying “they hang around together a lot.”

In court, a man who identified himself as January’s guardian, Charles Tuengel, declined to comment after the hearing. Relatives of the victims — Dunlap’s brother and Butler’s father and two brothers — left court without addressing reporters. They were accompanied by a victim’s advocate working for the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

In cases involving homicides, prosecutors in Colorado can charge children age 16 and older as adults. If convicted, they face life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years, said Colorado Springs defense attorney Shimon Kohn, who is unaffiliated with the case.

“That’s a real 40 years, not 40 years minus time for good behavior,” Kohn said.

The normal penalty for murder in Colorado is life without parole, but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the penalty unconstitutional for minors. The Supreme Court also bars minors from receiving the death penalty regardless of the crimes they committed, said defense attorney Tracey Edwards, also unaffiliated with the January case.

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