Macyo Joelle January’s defining act after escaping a juvenile offenders’ halfway house involved gunning down newlyweds while ransacking their home.
In all likelihood, he will never walk free again.
Calling the case “heartbreaking,” 4th Judicial District Court Judge Deborah Grohs on Wednesday sentenced the teen to back-to-back life sentences with the possibility of parole for the shooting deaths of David Dunlap and his pregnant wife, Whitney Butler.
The consecutive sentences mean he likely will spend at least 80 years behind bars before any shot at parole.
He received maximum sentences for his most serious convictions, including two back-to-back 32-year sentences for burglary, which Grohs said begin after January serves time for murder.
The teen, who was charged as an adult despite being 17 at the time of the killings, got a hug from a public defender after the hearing. He never spoke, and appeared in an orange jail jumpsuit rather than the vest-and-tie suits he wore at his trial.
The question wasn’t whether January, now 19, would get life in prison. Rather, attorneys argued whether Grohs should grant him the possibility of parole after 40 years for each murder conviction.
She did, because law mandates it for defendants who were 17 and younger when committing crimes.
“But the facts of this case otherwise do not call for leniency in any regard,” Grohs said.
Grohs said January threw away many chances to better his life, including running away from a halfway house whose director was renowned for helping troubled youth.
After his escape, January is suspected of returning to the halfway house, breaking in and stealing items from the facility, prosecutor Jeff Lindsey said after the hearing.
An arrest warrant for his escape was active on Jan. 14, 2013 — a day that, Grohs said, January acted like a “seasoned criminal.”
Rather than flee when surprised by David Dunlap during the botched burglary, January shot Dunlap from behind, she said. When Whitney Butler arrived at the house to check on the burglar alarm report, January shot her, too. Then he kept stealing from the house.
“He was just trying to make a profit,” Grohs said. “For what? For a few electronics? ... To put more handguns out in our community, in the wrong hands? To use them for future crimes?
“We will never know.”
She implored the community to examine itself amid the “tragic” story of a teen lost to a life of crime.
“When I have a young man who I am sentencing in front of me, I will be thinking of you Mr. January,” Grohs said. “And thinking about what we as a society can do different — what I as a judge can do different when I am sentencing young people.”
Had January been just four months older when he broke into 222 Bassett Drive and killed the newlyweds, prosecutors could have pursued the death penalty, Grohs added. Although he sought a sentence with no possibility of parole, Lindsey said that “to the extent possible, justice was served.”
Public defender Marcus Henson declined to comment after the hearing.
The victims’ relatives, often in tears, had implored Grohs to impose life without parole.
Pounding his hand on a podium after nearly every other word, Jeff Dunlap told Grohs that he only wanted to be an uncle — a joy stolen from him by “a complete monster and sociopath.”
“I don’t care what happens to this kid,” he said. “I didn’t know what hate was until this happened.”
The brothers’ mother, Maryln Dunlap, shared that hate for January — a feeling, she said, coming second only to the pain of knowing she’d never see her son again. How, she asked, could January kill the couple after going through a room being decorated as a nursery?
Glancing at the teen, David Dunlap’s uncle spoke last.
“I can never forgive you, but maybe God will someday,” Richard Riley said.
After the hearing, the family contemplated life beyond the criminal case — one without a grandchild, and without cross-country trips from California and Virginia to relive the killings in an El Paso County courtroom.
“We don’t have to come back here to the courthouse any time soon,” said Marie Butler, Whitney Butler’s mother.
For Kevin Butler, the next step will be a visit to Arlington National Cemetery.
There, his daughter, Whitney Butler, and his son-in-law, David Dunlap, are buried in a single grave.
And there, Kevin Butler said, he’ll “have a little chat.”