Teen gets 40 years to life in shooting of high school student in Centennial

Demarea Mitchell, 19, sentenced in 2019 death of Lloyd Chavez, 18

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The father of Lloyd Chavez IV stood at the lectern in court, a stuffed animal lying beside him. The stuffed animal, he said, was on his son’s bed when he went to clean out his room.

Chavez, fatally shot at age 18 during an attempted robbery in May 2019, was “loving and caring and giving” — traits that showed in the way he treated family and strangers, his father said.

“He loved (the stuffed animal) as he loved everyone else in his life: He squeezed the stuffing out of him,” Lloyd Chavez III, the father, told the court.

He added: “This is all I have to remind me of my son.”

He made his comments at Wednesday's hearing in Arapahoe County District Court to sentence Demarea Deshawn Mitchell, one of the four teens who was convicted in the incident in east Centennial that caused Chavez’s death.

“Unfortunately, Lloyd’s mother won’t be able to be here because she was a recovering alcoholic, and the death of her son pushed her over the edge and she drank herself to death (earlier) this year,” Chavez, the father, said.

He emphasized the chance Mitchell still has at experiencing some aspects of life, whereas Chavez’s loss is permanent.

“Prison is no kind of picnic, but it’s still life. He gets to see his family in whatever capacity,” Chavez said. But “I will never get to see or hold my grandkids” that Lloyd Chavez IV may have gone on to have, he said.

“That’s the life we lost,” Chavez added.

Lloyd Chavez IV was “an outstanding rugby player,” said the father, who wanted to play rugby with his father and his son — all three generations on one field.

“That will never happen,” Chavez said.

An Arapahoe County District Court jury found Mitchell, now 19, guilty of first-degree felony murder, attempted aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery. The four-day trial concluded July 16. Chavez was a Cherokee Trail High School student.

Arapahoe County District Court Judge Ben Leutwyler sentenced Mitchell to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years. Mitchell was given 864 days of credit toward his sentence for time already served.

‘Tragic’ case

The other teens involved in the incident included Kenneth Gallegos, now 19; Dominic Jarrod Stager, now 19; and Juliana Alexis Serrano, now also 19.

Stager and Serrano were both offered plea deals to testify against Mitchell and Gallegos, and in return, they were treated as juveniles in court rather than adults. Had they been prosecuted as adults like Mitchell and Gallegos, they would have faced 40 years to life in prison; instead, they received two-year sentences in juvenile settings, according to trial testimony. Stager brought the gun, which he said he had stolen, according to court proceedings.

In court hearings to determine whether Mitchell would have the chance at a more lenient sentence like Serrano and Stager — a chance the court denied — a psychologist who had analyzed Mitchell described him as suffering from “complex trauma.”

Mitchell had experienced homelessness, endured the deaths of male role models around him and lived with a mother who suffered in abusive relationships, according to his defense attorneys.

Leutwyler, the judge, said during the sentencing hearing that the only lawful sentence the court could impose is life with the possibility of parole after 40 years.

“I am well aware of Mr. Mitchell’s background, the trauma that he lived with as a young person” and “the loss that he has experienced through friends,” said Leutwyler, also noting Mitchell’s young age at the time of the crime.

The judge called the case “simply tragic.”

How incident unfolded

The shooting occurred during an attempted robbery of vaping products that Chavez sold, according to court proceedings.

On the night of the incident in May 2019 in east Centennial, the four suspects pulled up to Chavez’s home, where Chavez walked up to a window of the car and may have received cash from Serrano, according to court testimony. Chavez walked away without giving them the vaping product, or he was standing near the car, according to her court testimony.

Mitchell got out of the car and confronted Chavez, Serrano said according to an arrest document.

Chavez threw Mitchell onto the lawn, according to Serrano’s account in court, and that’s when Chavez was shot, the arrest document says.

The four suspects were in shock because they didn’t intend to shoot Chavez but, rather, threaten him with the gun if he didn’t give them the vaping product, according to what Serrano had told authorities.

The case saw some dispute about whether it was Gallegos or Mitchell who shot Chavez.

But ultimately, it didn’t matter who pulled the trigger, the prosecution argued previously. That’s because a count of first-degree felony murder can be charged against anyone in a group that is allegedly involved in a serious crime in which a death occurs. The charge applies even if a particular member of the group is not believed to have directly caused the death.

There was some discussion by the judge during the sentencing hearing of whether state Senate Bill 21-124 applied to the case. The bill, which became law this year, moved the crime of felony murder from being classified as first-degree murder to second-degree murder and changed the penalty from a class 1 felony to a class 2 felony, according to the Colorado legislature’s website.

The judge clarified that the law does not apply retroactively and thus is not relevant to Mitchell’s case.

Under Colorado law, the mandatory penalty for a juvenile convicted of a first-class felony is life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years, according to a news release from the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. That’s the sentence Gallegos received on June 2.

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