PUEBLO — Nicole Stephenson was seriously injured after an assault in late January of 2020, and succumbed to her injuries a few weeks later in a Denver hospital on February 19.
After Stephenson's death, her ex-boyfriend Nathan Turner's charge was amended to second-degree murder. However, according to the Colorado Judicial Department, a proposed plea agreement was filed in the case on March 17.
News5 called the 10th Judicial District, and spoke to a clerk who explained a charge listed in the proposed plea agreement is manslaughter, which is a Class 4 felony. News5 also obtained a copy of the plea, and photographs of the six page document can be found throughout this article.
Class 4 felonies typically carry a two to six year prison sentence, but the plea states that if extraordinary aggravated circumstances are found, Turner could be sentenced to twelve years for that charge.
The 10th Judicial District Attorney said he cannot comment on this case, because of a court order. However, he did tell News5 that Turner is facing anywhere from four to twelve years in the Department of Corrections, which is the aggravated range for a manslaughter charge.
Turner could also serve two to six years for a second-degree kidnapping charge on a probation revocation matter. The judge decides whether the sentences will be served consecutively or concurrently. "All told, he is going to prison for four years to eighteen years," said District Attorney Jeff Chostner in an email.
Stephenson's father, Francisco Vargas, said she was his only child. He was a single parent, who was granted custody of Stephenson when she was in fourth grade. "A father loves his daughter. Never expects anything like this to happen to her," said Vargas.
Vargas said he did not hear about the manslaughter charge until he was in the courtroom on March 17. "I was told from the very beginning, and I insisted from the very beginning, first day, first conversation with them, that there will be no plea deals. We want to go to trial. I was constantly assured that... Everybody knows Nathan Turner did this. Nathan Turner knows he did this. It seems the only one who doesn't know it is the district attorney," said Vargas.
"They misled me the whole way, and they asked us not to make a big thing out of it, and keep it lowkey. And we went along with them because they kept telling us, and I'm not the only one they told this to, that we were going to have a trial by jury."
Vargas said he will never be the same after losing his daughter. He also said Stephenson's two sons will never get to have their mother. "I've lived here all my life. I know how the system works. I don't have a lot of hope on this... This is like he killed her again with this little plea deal," said Vargas.
One of Stephenson's aunts, Ramona Gonzales, said the hardest thing she's had to do was see Stephenson in the hospital before she died. "It's like an epidemic, domestic violence. There's got to be a cure... I know we may not be able to get first degree murder, but she died as a result of the beatings, and this wasn't the first time he'd hit her... It's saying that if you're a victim of domestic violence, too bad, we're not going to help you," said Gonzales.
On the morning of Friday, April 9, Turner has an arraignment for a violation of probation from 2018. A representative from the 10th Judicial District said it was probation for a domestic violence related charge, and he violated it on January 27, 2020. That's when Stephenson was beaten.
During his appearance on April 9, friends and family of Stephenson held a demonstration outside of the Dennis Maes Judicial Building.
#HAPPENINGNOW : A crowd of people gathering outside the courthouse, demonstrating against a plea deal that’s on the table for Nathan Turner The man they believe killed Nicole Stephenson with Domestic Violence. @KOAA pic.twitter.com/6EruETsVuj— Natalie Chuck KOAA (@NatalieChuck) April 9, 2021
Many people in Pueblo opposed to the plea are asking, "What example will this set for future victims of domestic violence in our city?"
“It tells them we don’t care. We don’t care about you, we don’t care anything about your rights and we don’t care anything about your lives," said one demonstrator.
Dozens of people showed up at 8:00 am on a Friday morning to bring attention to their concerns about the handling of the case.
“I’m a little choked with emotions because nothing happened up there in the courtroom," said Ken Dowen, who says he was with Stephenson's mother the day she was born.
This is a developing story and News 5 will update you as details unfold.