Knowing they can never find closure, the family of 13-year-old Kelsey Shannon accepted resolution on Monday by assenting to a plea deal that will imprison for 48 years the man who confessed to murdering their child.
Alexander Paul Pacheco, 19, of Broomfield, pleaded guilty Monday to
Pacheco admitted to killing Kelsey, a student at Broomfield's Westlake Middle School, in October 2008. The murder came after a brief relationship, in which Pacheco deceived Kelsey and her family about his age.
Pacheco accepted a plea deal that dropped charges of first-degree murder, child abuse resulting in death and abuse of a corpse.
For the first time since his arrest, he spoke publicly during an emotionally charged hearing in a packed Broomfield courtroom.
"I am not a bad person, but I have done bad things, things that I regret," Pacheco said. "I am not a killer, and I am not a rapist ... but I have done very bad things."
Pacheco, wearing a dark black suit instead of the orange prison jumpsuit he has worn for every other court appearance, read from a statement that included Bible verses and claims that he loved Kelsey.
Pacheco read his statement to a hushed courtroom that strained to hear his voice. His comments appeared to appall members of the Shannon family and their friends, who wore butterfly pendants and bracelets bearing Kelsey's name to show their support.
Minutes earlier, members of the Shannon family
"There is no punishment that will bring her back ... so whatever happens, we will not be satisfied," said Tom Shannon, Kelsey's father.
Tim Horne, Kelsey's godfather and brother-in-law, spoke of treasured memories of Kelsey, such as being at her baptism, playing in the pool and watching movies "well past both of our bedtimes."
He also spoke about all that was stolen from Kelsey.
"She's never going to feel the elation of her wedding day, and she's never going to feel the awesome responsibility of having her own child," Horne said.
The Shannon family also shed new light on the
"It appeared to be a harmless friendship."
Then they learned Pacheco's true age. He turned 18 on Sept. 1, 2008. Kelsey's parents immediately tried to end the friendship. Kelsey resisted at first, but she gradually came to see who Pacheco was, they said.
"It's just such a shame she didn't see it sooner," Tom Shannon said.
While the Shannon family spoke of their grief, Assistant District Attorney
Kowert returned to the most gruesome details of the testimony -- Pacheco's statements to friends that he strangled Kelsey and stabbed her in the neck before molesting her corpse.
"Before he left her there, before he went away, he committed another atrocity by violating her body," Kowert said. "Did he recoil in horror at what he had done? No. He bragged about it."
Kelsey's family members accepted the plea because they wanted the certainty of a guilty verdict.
"Although nothing can make this right, nothing can bring Kelsey Shannon back, they are supportive of this because it gives them the certainty this crime will not go unpunished," Kowert said.
Along with the murder charge, Pacheco pleaded guilty to intimidating a witness, a charge that stemmed from an incident at the Broomfield County jail. For that crime, he was sentenced to 20 years, which he will serve concurrently.
A charge that Pacheco sexually assaulted his cellmate in June 2009 was dropped.
Pacheco's family members turned out in force to support him and provide testimony before Popovich handed down the sentence. They told the court of Pacheco's long struggle to find his way in life and apologized to the Shannons.
They also said they believe Pacheco can redeem himself.
"Underneath that mask that he wears, there is a kind, loving heart," said his mother, Linda Chavez. "I will always be there for him, and I will always, always love him, unconditionally."
Eugene Chavez, Pacheco's father, blasted Broomfield police and media for their treatment of the case. Police did not search thoroughly enough for Kelsey after she disappeared and treated his family with "bigotry," he said.
Chavez spoke with the media in the courthouse hallway after the hearing ended, saying there is a lot of evidence "that never came out."
"He's a good kid. He made a bad mistake, and he admitted it," Chavez said.
Chavez himself did not seem so certain.
"I guess the public will have to make their own decision on that," he replied when asked if he believed Pacheco was guilty.
Kelsey disappeared the afternoon of Oct. 14, 2008. Her severely decomposed body was found Jan. 21, 2009, in a drainage ditch northeast of the intersection of Lowell Boulevard and West 136th Avenue, less than a mile from her family's home in the Broadlands.
Pacheco was arrested less than 24 hours after Kelsey's body was identified.
His 48-year sentence includes credit for the 400-plus days he has served in jail since his arrest.