Aidan Zellmer, age fifteen, has been charged as an adult for the June 2017 murder of Kiaya Campbell, a ten-year-old from Thornton. Zellmer, who had not previously been identified by name because of his age, will be among the youngest individuals in recent Colorado history to be prosecuted for a homicide in the adult system.
According to the 17th Judicial District DA's office, Adams County Juvenile Court Judge Priscilla Loew ruled that the case should be moved to adult court following a four-day hearing that ended yesterday, January 23.
Zellmer has been accused of first-degree murder after deliberation, first-degree murder by a person in a position of trust, two counts of felony murder, one count of sexual assault on a child and two counts of felony sexual assault. He's scheduled to be advised of the charges against him at 11 a.m. today, January 24, in Division Q of Adams County District Court.
Although news outlets like this one have not previously published Zellmer's moniker, information about him has been lingering online since shortly after June 8, 2017, when Campbell's body was discovered about a mile from her father's home, near the intersection of Jasmine Street and East 128th Avenue.
An Everipedia item in his name includes the two family photos seen here, as well as a screen shot of Zellmer's now-deleted Facebook page, which is nothing if not typical. As you can see, pics include Deadpool and Chucky, the lethal doll from the Child's Play movies, plus a reference to both the teen's actual middle school (Vikan, located in Brighton) and a job working at a fictional eatery from SpongeBob SquarePants.
The page points out that Zellmer was attending Horizon High School in Thornton at the time of the slaying. In addition, the teen has a twin brother, and his father, Demmie Joseph Olvera, is overtly religious; he waved a crucifix during a court appearance while saying the word "Jesus" to the assembled media.
As for other examples of Colorado juveniles accused as adults in capital crimes, one notorious example took place in 2011, when Burlington prosecutor Robert Watson toyed with the idea of charging a twelve-year-old in adult court for the slayings of his parents, Charles and Marilyn Long, and the wounding of a younger brother and sister. At the time, it appeared that the child might become the youngest person in Colorado history to face adult murder charges.
Watson ultimately chose not to do so, however, and following an August 2011 plea deal, the then-thirteen-year-old was sentenced to seven years in the juvenile corrections system rather than a possible life sentence in adult prison.
Cut to September 2017, when we finally learned the name of the crimes' perpetrator: Gedeon Long, who was nineteen when a judge in Burlington approved his transfer to what was referred to as a "less secure facility" in advance of his scheduled release from juvenile detention around the same time in 2018.
Elsewhere in our previous coverage, we documented fourteen other cases of Colorado juveniles being prosecuted as adults. Of those, only three were as young or younger than Zellmer at the time they committed crimes, and two of the homicides date back to the early 1990s, as seen in the following excerpt from an article in the defunct Rocky Mountain News:
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Nov. 4, 1992 — Thomas ''T.J.'' White, 15, and Marcus Fernandez, 16, killed state Trooper Lyle Wohlers. White is sentenced to consecutive 16-year terms for accessory to murder. Fernandez is sentenced to life without parole.
Oct. 31, 1993 — Paul English, 14, shot and killed Carl Banks Jr., 18, in Park Hill, as he was shepherding a group of trick-or-treaters. He was sentenced to 48 years in prison.
A more recent example of this phenomenon took place in 2013, when fifteen-year-old Miguel Ita allegedly stabbed and killed Jose Barrera-Mendoza, 22. The case began in juvenile court, but the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office filed for it to be moved to the adult system — and it was.
Ita was convicted in 2015. He is now nineteen and listed as an inmate at the Fremont Correctional Facility. His estimated parole eligibility date is June 16, 2034.
We don't yet know if a similar sentence is in Zellmer's future. But the 17th Judicial District DA's office stresses that "the filing of a criminal charge is merely a formal accusation that an individual committed a crime under Colorado laws. A defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty."