A Utah teen has stricken a plea deal admitting to raping and murdering a 12-year-old girl in 2015.
The blended plea deal will allow Jayden Sterzer, 18, to stay in a juvenile detention center until he’s 21. He will then be sentenced in an adult court and face 15 years to life in prison.
Sterzer pleaded in juvenile court he lured his neighbor Kailey Vijil out of her home before midnight July 16, 2015, with a story that he needed help looking for his cat.
Vijil was found dead hours after, at about 1:30 a.m., in an overgrown pasture West Valley City, Utah, about half-mile from her home.
Sterzer’s attorneys told the judge that Sterzer raped the girl and then strangled her with his tank top, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
His lawyer Michael Sikora said Sterzer suffered intellectual impairments as a result of being exposed to alcohol while in his mother’s womb.
“Because of these impairments,” Sikora said, “because he operates at such a young age—intellectually he operates about at the level of a third-grader—it was very important to do what we could to keep him in the juvenile system for the next three years.”
District Juvenile Court Judge James Michie ruled a year ago Sterzer wasn’t competent to stand trial with the caveat that his competence may be restored. Earlier this year the judge decided Sterzer was competent to stand trial after all.
The judge said his focus will now focus on the victim’s family.
“Now the tide has turned, finally,” Michie said, “and our focus is not going to be just on you anymore. Our focus is also going to be on Kailey and her family and what you took from them.”
“It’s been an unbearable 2½ years that they’ve had to go through,” said Spencer Banks, attorney for the victim’s family. “… [The plea deal] assures he will be in custody for an extremely long time, and that’s where they take the most comfort.”
Sterzer’s next court appearance was set on Jan. 19, 2018, Fox 13 reported.
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