JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — A judge set bond Wednesday morning for the three suspects involved in a fatal rock-throwing incident in Jefferson County after hearing from the victim's loved ones.
Alexa Bartell, 20, was killed on April 19 after a rock crashed into her windshield as she drove northbound on Indiana Street in Jefferson County. Three 18-year-olds were arrested and are now accused of throwing rocks at multiple vehicles that evening, including the one that killed Bartell.
The suspects were identified as Nicholas Karol-Chik, Zachary Kwak and Joseph Koenig. They were arrested on charges of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, second-degree assault and attempted second-degree assault a week after the crime.
They are accused of throwing rocks at multiple other vehicles and after striking Bartell's car, they allegedly drove by the crashed vehicle to take a photo as a memento, according to their arrest affidavits.
During a status conference in Jefferson County court on Wednesday morning, First Judicial District Judge Christopher Zenisek set bond at $2 million cash-only after emotional pleas from Bartell's family and partner. The judge also extended the preliminary hearing from July to September due to the large amount of evidence.
During the hearing, Bartell's mother, father and girlfriend addressed the court.
In tears, Kelly Bartell said she stood before the court Wednesday as a mother who had her daughter taken away. She remembered getting the call on the evening of April 19 and rushing to the scene.
“That five-minute drive was the most terrifying experience a mother can have," she said.
When she got to the crash site, she saw her daughter's car in a field. A first responder stopped her from getting closer, saying her daughter was gone.
"I wake up every day living this nightmare over and over," she said. "... Alexa will not be able to celebrate her 21st birthday this year because of them."
She said the three suspects proved they are a danger to society.
Virtually, father Greg Bartell also addressed the court, saying his daughter was loved by everyone and lit up every room she walked into.
Her loss has left the family traumatized, he said.
He added that his daughter's girlfriend, Jenna Griggs, hasn't been able to drive since that night.
Griggs was on the phone with Alexa when she crashed. Griggs heard the line go quiet and used the Find My iPhone app to find Alexa. When she saw her state, she called Alexa's mother and 911.
She also spoke in court Wednesday morning.
Griggs remembered waiting 25 minutes for police to arrive, only to tell her that her partner was gone.
“Alexa was my every second of the day, she was my everything," she said. “I am honestly scared of these three men. So scared.”
She expressed her anger that they are able to laugh and smile while Alexa is gone.
One of the survivors of the suspect's alleged rock-throwing attack also spoke and talked about them celebrating their actions.
Prosecutors said the risk of flight with the three suspects is high. They noted that they all live in affluent neighborhoods and it wouldn't be difficult for their families to post a $1 million bond.
They briefly summarized the incidents and how the suspects "terrorized the Jefferson County community" before requesting a $10 million cash-only bond.
The defense for the three suspects protested against a $10 million bond, citing the recent Colorado Supreme Court ruling in State vs. Smith, which says a person charged with first-degree murder cannot be held without bond. The lawyer for Karol-chik asked for $250,000 cash or surety property bond, the lawyer for Koenig asked for $100,000 cash or surety property bond, and the attorney for Kwak requested a $400,000 cash or surety property bond.
Judge Zenisek noted that the Smith ruling means the court must set a bond, but doesn't have a limit.
"There is no amount (of bond) that will adequately support the importance of that individual to our community," Judge Zenisek said of Alexa Bartell.
The suspects are all high school seniors with no criminal history, he noted. They have family support. But “none of those things can erase” the severity of what happened, he said. Each one of the 18-year-olds faces a punishment of life without parole if convicted.
He also referenced how the trio returned to the homicide scene after throwing a rock.
Judge Zenisek set bond at $2 million cash-only with multiple conditions, including GPS monitoring, no contact with co-defendants, honoring all protection orders, monitored sobriety, surrender of driver's license and passport, and no driving.