Hearing set for teenage murder suspect
Eric Stoneman, the teenage suspect in the fatal shooting of a Battlement Mesa boy, has a court hearing next week that may decide his future.On Thursday, Stoneman’s attorneys, public defenders Greg Greer and Jim Conway, as well as Assistant District Attorney Vince Felletter, met with chief District Court Judge Peter Craven to set a date for what Felletter characterized as a plea bargain hearing on Dec. 22.Stoneman, 14, is accused of shooting and killing 9-year-old Taylor DeMarco in a Battlement Mesa mobile home on July 20.Felletter said he and the public defenders “have been in discussions about negotiating [a plea bargain]. We’re close.”Stoneman has been charged as an adult with first-degree murder, and if convicted, faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.Such an adult charge carries a range of options for a plea bargain, Felletter has said. Commonly, plea bargains include lesser charges if the offender agrees to plead guilty.Judges also have discretion in sentencing felony cases, including prison, probation and anything in between. They may also sentence a youth who is convicted as an adult to time in a juvenile offender facility, Felletter has said.Besides the offender, plea negotiations also consider the victim or victims of the crime and the affected community.Juvenile advocate groups have challenged Stoneman’s first-degree murder charge as being too harsh. Stoneman was 14 when he shot DeMarco, the youngest age for which a person can be charged as an adult in Colorado.A juvenile charged with a class-one felony can spend at most seven years in juvenile detention.Felletter has also said that one of the considerations in filing the adult charge was the fact that felonies stay defendants’ records for the rest of their lives. Juvenile convictions can be cleared or sealed after a period of time, so there is no lasting record.Stoneman did not appear in court Thursday. He is being held without bond at Grand Mesa Youth Detention Center in Grand Junction. Greer said he waived his right to be present in court on Greer’s and Conway’s advice because “he has to move through the [Garfield County] adult jail.”
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