An ex-Fort Carson soldier previously sentenced to life in prison in a 2014 ambush killing in Security-Widefield now has a chance at parole.
Brian Keith Springsted was resentenced Friday to 28 years in prison, a significant break more than a year after the Colorado Court of Appeals set aside a jury’s first-degree murder conviction against him, finding his confession had been coerced.
Prosecutors say he was anything but a fall guy, tying him to an execution-style killing in which he shot Daniel “Chopps” Baird twice in the chest with a handgun, after an accomplice, Michael “Popeye” Malory, shot Baird in the face with a .50-caliber revolver.
“He was walking to the slaughter,” prosecutor Michael Allen said of the attack, which occurred May 3, 2014, in the kitchen of Malory’s home at 1100 Main St. in Security-Widefield.
Baird had been lured to the home by text messages and phone calls from Malory, who was described as the mastermind.
Malory opened fire at Baird “almost immediately,” Allen said, dropping him where he stood, a pack of cigarettes in one hand and a pair of motorcycle riding glasses in the other. His heart was still beating when Springsted shot him, likely while standing directly over him.
Any of the three shots could have been fatal, the autopsy found.
Prosecutors didn’t disclose their theory of why Baird was targeted by the men, but Malory and Springsted were reportedly members of the Sons of Silence outlaw biker gang.
Allen hinted that Malory’s home was used for dark purposes, calling it a “killing house,” and pointing to a painting near the front door depicting a woman’s face with tape covering her mouth, an apparent warning.
“What happens (at) 1100 Main stays there,” Allen said. “You don’t talk about it when you leave.”
Malory was convicted of second-degree murder at trial and sentenced to 48 years in prison. He died in custody in October.
A jury initially convicted Springsted of first-degree murder in November 2014. The court of appeals overturned the conviction in December 2016, finding that El Paso County sheriff’s detectives had coerced incriminating statements from Springsted during a “long and tortuous interrogation.”
Although other evidence potentially linked Springsted to the crime, the appeals panel found “a reasonable possibility” that coerced statements contributed to his convictions.
The statements — which authorities say were consistent with how the killing unfolded — would have been stricken from a retrial.
Springsted instead pleaded guilty in April to second-degree murder. His plea bargain called for a potential sentence of 20 to 32 years.
Springsted is a 10-year Army veteran who served three deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to his attorneys, who say he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
In choosing a penalty near the top end, 4th Judicial District Judge Erin Sokol called Springsted “fully culpable” in the death and said she was skeptical of a defense expert’s testimony that Springsted suffered from dissociative amnesia and couldn’t recall the shooting.
In the wake of the killing, Springsted told friends that Malory had shot Baird and that he finished the job.
“At that point, he didn’t appear to have any amnesia about doing so,” Sokol said.
Springsted received 1,900 days credit for time served.