Girl pleads guilty in mur­der plot

The 17-year-old is one of two teens ac­cused of plan­ning a school at­tack.

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By Jesse Paul

cas­tle rock» One of two teen girls ac­cused of plot­ting to kill staffers and fel­low stu­dents at Moun­tain Vista High School last year pleaded guilty Tues­day to one count each of con­spir­acy to com­mit mur­der in the first de­gree and mur­der so­lic­i­ta­tion in the first de­gree, both felonies.

Along with a plea agree­ment, 17year-old Brooke Hig­gins ac­cepted a stip­u­lated sen­tence of three years in the Divi­sion of Youth Cor­rec­tions — the state’s ju­ve­nile de­ten­tion sys­tem — and will get credit for the roughly one year she has spent in jail since her ar­rest.

Hig­gins, dressed in a dark-green sweat­shirt and light-green pants, was barely au­di­ble as she softly told Dou­glas County District Judge Paul King she was guilty. The girl, her hair in braids, was flanked by her lawyers and par­ents dur­ing the hear­ing in Cas­tle Rock.

“What I am sat­is­fied with about this out­come is I think that we have put her in a po­si­tion to give her the ap­pro­pri­ate setup and su­per­vi­sion to be suc­cess­ful and to con­tinue to move for­ward,” 18th Ju­di­cial District At­tor­ney Ge­orge Brauch­ler told re­porters af­ter the hear­ing. “And I think we have put the com­mu­nity in a po­si­tion to re­main safe for as long a time as pos­si­ble.”

Of the mur­der con­spir­acy and mur­der so­lic­i­ta­tion charges Hig­gins ad­mit­ted to, the first is an adult ac­cu­sa­tion and the lat­ter is a ju­ve­nile of­fense.

The Depart­ment of Youth Cor­rec­tions sen­tence comes from the ju­ve­nile of­fense. Hig­gins also agreed to four years of su­per­vi­sion upon her re­lease from ju­ve­nile de­ten­tion that will serve as a de­ferred sen­tenced for the adult charge. A for­mal sen­tenc­ing is set for early Fe­bru­ary.

Pros­e­cu­tors say if the teen suc­cess­fully com­pletes the di­ver­sion, she could have the adult felony con­vic­tion sealed from her record.

“If she does ev­ery­thing she is re­quired to do,” Brauch­ler said, “at the end of the day, she will be in a po­si­tion to close the book on

this case and put it be­hind her and con­tinue to progress for­ward as an adult.”

Hig­gins’ par­ents and lawyers did not speak to re­porters as they quickly left the Dou­glas County court­house.

Hig­gins and Si­enna John­son were charged as adults with con­spir­acy to com­mit mur­der last year in the al­leged plan to at­tack Moun­tain Vista High. De­fense at­tor­neys for the girls had asked for a re­verse trans­fer, which would al­low them to be tried as ju­ve­niles. Both girls were 16 years old at the time of their ar­rest.

Hig­gins was set to have a re­verse trans­fer hear­ing — a mini trial where a judge de­ter­mines whether adult or ju­ve­nile charges are ap­pro­pri­ate — last week, but that hear­ing was post­poned so she could plead guilty Tues­day.

John­son, whose case re­mains un­der pros­e­cu­tion, is next due be­fore a judge in Jan­uary.

“(Si­enna John­son) has to re­main pre­sumed in­no­cent even though (Hig­gins), who we’ve ac­cused of con­spir­acy with her, has pleaded guilty,” Brauch­ler said.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors ar­rested John­son and Hig­gins on Dec. 12, 2015, days be­fore they say the pair planned to at­tack Moun­tain Vista High School as Christmas break ap­proached. Au­thor­i­ties called the girls’ plans im­mi­nent.

The girls’ scheme, of­fi­cials said, was foiled days be­fore it was sup­posed to be car­ried out when the Dou­glas County Sher­iff’s Of­fice was alerted about the threat via text mes­sage. Most de­tails of the al­leged plot have not been made pub­lic, and doc­u­ments in the case re­main sealed.

Dur­ing a Jan­uary court hear­ing, how­ever, pros­e­cu­tors said Hig­gins searched the in­ter­net for ways to pur­chase firearms as a mi­nor, us­ing a site de­scribed as “a Craigslist for weapons.” Among her searches, Hig­gins also al­legedly tried to find out whether a child could pur­chase weapons at gun shows and sought in­for­ma­tion on fe­male mass shoot­ers, au­thor­i­ties said.

Hig­gins wrote in her jour­nal that she wished she could have par­tic­i­pated in the 1999 Columbine High School at­tack, which left 12 stu­dents and a teacher dead, pros­e­cu­tors said.

Au­thor­i­ties also said Si­enna John­son ref­er­enced the movie “Nat­u­ral Born Killers” in her jour­nal, an ob­ses­sion of the Columbine High gun­men. John­son’s friends raised con­cerns to a school coun­selor about her be­hav­ior sev­eral months be­fore her ar­rest, The Den­ver Post found.

The Dou­glas County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice says it in­ves­ti­gated the girl and ul­ti­mately dropped their probe be­cause they found no crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing. About two months later, John­son and Hig­gins were ar­rested.

King on Tues­day de­clined pros­e­cu­tors’ re­quest to re­lease Hig­gins’ ar­rest doc­u­ments.

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