Why Killer Kevin Lyons Was Lucky to Get Life Plus 352 Years

Update: Kevin Lyons has been sentenced for the April 2016 killing of Dr. Kenneth Atkinson and the wounding of two women, including his wife. Atkinson's widow asked the judge in the case to impose the heaviest punishment possible, and he came as close as he could without imposing the death penalty, which prosecutors reluctantly chose not to seek.

Our previous coverage of the Lyons case is on view below.

At the June 5 hearing before Judge Carlos Samour, who oversaw the Aurora theater shooting trial, a neighbor who was also shot by Lyons as he pursued his wife with a gun recounted the terror of the situation.

"In a matter of moments, I went from a neighbor gardening on a beautiful day to a person being hunted by a man who was beyond evil," the woman told the court.

As noted in a release by the 18th Judicial District DA's office, which prosecuted the matter, the neighbor was shot in the face. She said that Lyons "was determined to kill me."

Just as emotional was the address delivered by the widow of Atkinson, the Centennial doctor who was killed while trying to defend the women; Samour referred to him as a "real life superhero." In her words, "I am not the same person I was. Grief seeps into your soul and robs you of your very soul. I am broken but not destroyed. For his hate-filled deeds, his disregard for human life, I believe Kevin Lyons is worthy of the harshest penalty this state allows."

Samour responded by sentencing Lyons to life plus 352 years.

District Attorney George Brauchler, who's running for Colorado governor in 2018, is a supporter of capital punishment, and his office acknowledges that he seriously considered moving in that direction in this case before taking a different course. In a statement, Brauchler explained his logic like so: "The system in many ways is impotent to render true justice in a case like this. You had a very, very good man killed by a very bad man. Tragedy is overused, but this IS a tragedy. Life in prison for this defendant can’t balance what this man has done to this family and this community. This was a tough one. There’s no good outcome to this. We achieved what we could. I was satisfied that justice included this outcome."

Continue for our earlier report.

Update, 5:28 a.m. May 5: Kevin Lyons has pleaded guilty to the murder of Dr. Kenneth Atkinson, a longtime Centennial physician who had been attempting to act as a good Samaritan in a domestic dispute involving Lyons and his wife, who was wounded along with another woman during the attack. Lyons, whose irrational post-arrest claims included calling his wife a "two-headed snake" and claiming that he'd hired "John Elway's lawyer," will spend the rest of his life in jail.

Our previous post, originally published on April 6, 2016, has been incorporated into this post.

At about 1:15 p.m. on Monday, April 4, as we've reported, Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office dispatchers received multiple 911 calls about gunshots heard on the 6200 block of East Long Circle in Centennial.

Deputies, assisted by officers with the Greenwood Village Police Department, soon located three victims.

They were subsequently identified as Atkinson, 46-year-old Laurie Juergens and 44-year-old Elizabeth Lyons, Kevin's wife.

Both women survived the attack. Lyons, for his part, was taken into custody without incident.

The next day, during his initial court appearance, Lyons continually interrupted the judge in the case: Carlos Samour, who oversaw the Aurora theater shooting trial.

He was quoted as saying to the public defender assigned to him, "You're not my representative, bro. I don't even know you" — after which he claimed to have secured the services of "John Elway's lawyer."

The prosecution asked that the arrest affidavit remain sealed, and Samour agreed — something that didn't make Lyons very happy. Nonetheless, details of the case were kept secret for more than a year, during which Lyons was subjected to a mental-health evaluation that determined he was competent to stand trial.

The arrest report was finally made public yesterday, May 4, upon the announcement of Lyons's plea. The document quotes Elizabeth Lyons as telling investigators that her husband had been acting "irrational" and "crazy" in the days leading up to the fateful incident, which included shots fired at deputies who responded to the scene. Upon being taken into custody, Lyons announced, "I killed my wife. She is a two-headed snake. I had to kill it. There is a new beginning.”

Today, Lyons will indeed be experiencing a new beginning. He'll start serving a stipulated life sentence without the possibility of parole plus 352 years.

Look below to see Lyons's mug shot.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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