Teen charged with first-degree murder
Post Independent Staff
Fourteen-year-old Eric Alan Stoneman has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 9-year-old Taylor DeMarco.
Stoneman is the youngest murder defendant to be charged as an adult in the 9th Judicial District, “to my knowledge,” said District Attorney Colleen Truden.
Stoneman appeared in district court Wednesday morning where nine charges were filed against him. The first-degree murder charge carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Stoneman also is now charged with manslaughter, first-degree assault, menacing with a deadly weapon ” all felonies ” as well as misdemeanor charges of possession of a handgun by a juvenile, prohibited use of a weapon and discharge of that weapon, and resisting arrest.
“We believe the charges support (the first-degree murder count) and it’s an appropriate charge at this time,” Truden said at a press conference after the 8 a.m. hearing Wednesday. “The aggravated circumstances and deliberate intent speak for themselves.”
If he had been charged and convicted as a juvenile, Stoneman would have faced a maximum sentence of seven years. “Now (with the first-degree murder) it’s an automatic life sentence,” assistant district attorney Vince Felletter said.
The death penalty will not be considered in this case. “The death penalty has not been an issue in Colorado for the last 70 or 80 years” for children under 16, Truden said.
Fourteen is the youngest age a child can be charged as an adult, Felletter said.
District Judge Peter Craven, who presided over Wednesday’s hearing, imposed a restraining order on Stoneman prohibiting him from contact with witness Eric Warde. Felletter acknowledged the move was a formality since Stoneman is incarcerated.
“But someone in detention can (make) contact. We want to protect the victims and witness,” he said.
Warde is the key witness in the case. It was at his home at 204 Carson Circle in Battlement Mesa that the shooting took place. He described the shooting to sheriff’s investigators.
According to his father Rick Warde, who related what his son told investigators to the Post Independent last month, three boys ” Eric Warde, Eric Stoneman and Taylor DeMarco ” were playing together on July 20, then began arguing. Stoneman went home and returned with a .22-caliber automatic pistol. He reportedly first pointed the gun at Warde and pulled the trigger, but the gun failed to discharge. He then swung it around to DeMarco and shot the boy in the chest, Rick Warde said.
Craven also dismissed an unrelated misdemeanor charge against Stoneman for possession of marijuana.
On Wednesday, Stoneman, who has been held without bond at the Grand Mesa Youth Detention Center in Grand Junction, was dressed in striped black-and-white Garfield County jail garb. He sat alone in the jury box in the courtroom with his head hung down during the proceedings. His parents, Rick and Val Stoneman, sat in the front row facing him. Taylor DeMarco’s parents, Wendi Robyn and William DeMarco, also sat in the front row, opposite the Stoneman family.
Security for the hearing was tight. People attending the hearing had to pass through a metal detector and purses and briefcases were searched.
During Stoneman’s first appearance in court in July, William DeMarco lashed out at him and had to be restrained. Stoneman was rushed out the back door of the courtroom.
“That’s why we had extra security,” said Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario. “This will be treated as a high-profile case. We had some behavior issues in a past hearing. But the (DeMarco) family was extremely appropriate today and we don’t anticipate any problems in the future.”
Stoneman will appear again in court on Oct. 19 for a preliminary hearing.
Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510
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