The Denver Post

Killer of chef gets life sentence

Raheem Benson, who gunned down Nicholas Lewis in ’16, is eligible for parole in 40 years

- By David Migoya

With an urn representi­ng the remains of the Denver chef he gunned down just 10 feet away, an Englewood teenager was sentenced Friday to life in prison with the chance for parole in 40 years.

Raheem Benson was 16 at the time he gunned down Blackbird Public House chef Nicholas Lewis as the chef walked home from an Englewood convenienc­e store in 2016. An Arapahoe County jury found Benson, now 18, guilty of first-degree murder f or the crime three months ago.

Benson sat stoically in court, his mother sobbing just behind him, as District Judge Andrew Baum imposed the automatic sentence, required by the legislatur­e of juveniles convicted of felony murder as an adult.

“This didn’t have to happen,” Baum told Benson before issuing the sentence. “Mr. Lewis did not have to die.”

A second teen, Louis Lara-Marcias, 17, was sentenced in December 2017 to seven years in the state’s youth-correction system in connection with the October 2016 murder. He had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and faces 21 years in adult prison if he violates any of the terms of his juvenile incarcerat­ion.

The pair had posted photograph­s of the killing on Facebook, Baum said.

“I don’t see how you bragging on your Facebook posts that it could be anything other than you shooting Mr. Lewis,” Baum said, addressing Lewis’ earlier assertions that he wasn’t the triggerman. “It’s just inexcusabl­e that you didn’t just back away and give it up; sometimes it takes the bigger man to walk away.”

The teens took nothing from Lewis, who was about 50 yards from home when he was killed, and shot him three times simply for the “exhilarati­on of committing a crime,” prosecutor­s have said.

Benson sat quietly pulling at chin hairs as several members of Lewis’ family read statements to Baum outlining the impact the death has had on them.

The most moving came from Lewis’ ex-wife, Maria Kuntz, who described the prospect of their 9year-old son’s life without a father.

“Nick’s death means Liam has lost the one other person in the world who loves him as much as I do,” Kuntz told Baum as the boy sat quietly in the courtroom, head down, small hands fiddling with a white stuffed animal. “There is no way to compensate for this loss.”

The only emotion Benson showed in the 2½-hour hearing was wiping his eyes during his mother’s brief plea for the court’s mercy.

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