Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove the name of the 14-year-old suspect at the request of a Denver County Court judge.
DENVER (KDVR) — A 14-year-old is accused of shooting and killing 32-year-old Pam Cabriales because of a minor fender bender.
“I can’t think of another 14-year-old that we’ve charged or tried to charge as an adult since I’ve been in office,” Denver District Attorney Beth McCann said.
On Monday, McCann’s office will try to convince a Denver judge that the teen’s crime was so horrific that the now-17-year-old should be tried as an adult in the Feb. 20, 2021, shooting at Interstate 25 and Colfax Avenue.
The judge has set aside four days for what’s called a “reverse transfer hearing” to determine if his first-degree murder case should be transferred from juvenile to adult court.
“Unfortunately, he’s only 14, but he’s capable of killing someone in a very, you know, just cold-blooded way with no indication of remorse or concern or anything of that nature,” McCann said.
Woman killed with high-powered rifle
According to investigators, Cabriales accidentally rear-ended a car at Colfax and I-25 while heading home. The car she tapped from behind was occupied by the male suspect and 18-year-old Neshan Johnson.
An arrest affidavit states the suspect got out of the front seat and shot Cabriales in the head with a high-powered rifle.
“Shot an AR-15, not once, not twice — 15 to 20 rounds went through my sister’s vehicle,” said Alex Cabriales, the victim’s older brother.
He’s been waiting two and a half years to learn if the alleged shooter and gang member will be charged as an adult.
“Just to earn his stripes. That’s all it was for him. He didn’t care about my sister’s life. He didn’t care that she had an 8-year-old son. To him, it’s just earning his stripes,” Cabriales said.
Juvenile murder sentence would be 7 years
McCann is known as a progressive prosecutor, someone who might typically prefer options for reform instead of prison for a teenager, but the district attorney told the Problem Solvers she cannot ignore the circumstances of this case or the criminal background of the suspect.
“A lot of it dealt with the fact that he had already been in the system, had had an opportunity to take advantage of that, but also the brutal, just absolute brutal savagery of this shooting,” McCann said.
As a juvenile, the suspect can’t face more than seven years in prison, even for first-degree murder. But if he’s tried as an adult, he could face 40 years before he’s eligible for parole.
“You know, I have an obligation to help protect the public from people and to keep our community safe. And I look at someone like that and I think, this is not someone that should be out in the community for a long, long time,” McCann said.
Cabriales echoed McCann’s thought: “If he is let out at some point … he will re-offend. He will murder someone else.”
The suspect’s co-defendant, Johnson, was 18 at the time of the shooting. He was accused of being the getaway driver.
Johnson was originally offered a plea deal to serve seven years in the Colorado Youthful Offender System. But after pushback from the victim’s family, a judge rejected the deal as too soft.
Instead, Johnson was tried and convicted as an adult and in June was sentenced to 35 years in prison.