NORTHGLENN – 16-year old Adian Zellmer pleaded guilty to first-degree murder on Friday for the killing of 10-year-old Kiaya Campbell. Aidan Zellmer was 15 when he was formally charged with four counts of murder and three counts of sexual assault after Campbell’s body was discovered in an open area in Thornton the day after she’d been reported missing.
Zellmer pleaded guilty to the murder charge during the trial. All other charges were dropped. He faces life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years. Because the sexual assault charges were dropped, Zellmer is eligible to participate in a youth corrective program. If he’s a model inmate and makes it through that program, he may be eligible for parole in 30 years, at age 46. A sentencing hearing is set for March 11.
When Campbell was originally reported as missing, her family told police that she and a 15-year-old boy had left a home in the 12400 block of Forest Drive in Thornton to walk to a nearby shopping center and that they’d become separated in a heavy rainstorm.
A massive search in the area for the girl took place immediately and it ended the next afternoon when a man discovered her body in a grassy area roughly a mile east of the area where she was reported to have disappeared.