John Castillo, prosecutors, react after STEM school shooting guilty verdict

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CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (KDVR) — The parents of a STEM School Highlands Ranch student murdered in the 2019 shooting there, along with a student who was wounded that day, reacted with emotion after a jury found the second and final shooter guilty.

It was emotional in the courtroom after the verdict was read. Throughout the trial, John and Maria Castillo — whose son, Kendrick, died that day — were in the front row hoping for justice for their son.

“We’ve had tears of sorrow,” John Castillo said. “We’ve had anger over the couple of years. Today, we had tears of joy.”

A Douglas County jury convicted Devon Erickson of first-degree murder Tuesday in the killing of Kendrick Castillo, among other charges connected to the shooting.

John, who has since become an activist for keeping children safe, took time to thank Douglas County Sheriff’s deputies and prosecutors for their hard work.

“I can’t even begin to tell you what that’s meant to my wife and [me] … to have such strong support,” Castillo said.

George Brauchler, the former District Attorney who stayed on as a deputy after his term to try the case, said he was relieved justice was served — while he also acknowledged a reality that endures.

“I’m going to leave here and go home and have dinner with my kids and hug them,” Brauchler said. “[I’m going to] think about the fact that John and Maria are going to get in their car and drive to a gravesite and share information with a headstone that the person it represents probably already knows.”

Erickson, the former student-turned-convicted killer, was one of two shooters in the tragedy that played out at the Douglas County school in May 2019. The trial was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the case, jurors heard testimony from survivors like Mitchell Kraus.

“We’re all part of a family we never wanted to be a part of,” Kraus said after the verdict.

Kraus and other survivors have formed a strong bond as they navigate the healing process. What happened Tuesday was a pivotal part of that process.

“This monster — to be honest — is never going to see the light of day again,” Kraus said.

For the Castillos, the grief will never fully go away. But there is some closure in what Brauchler called a day of reckoning and accountability.

Erickson’s lead defense attorney, David Kaplan, would not go on camera Tuesday.

Erickson is expected to spend the rest of his life behind bars without the possibility of parole. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for mid September.

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