In the vast majority of cases -- even serious cases -- when juveniles are charged with crimes, prosecutors routinely decline to release their names.
So it's highly unusual that the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office is sharing the name of fifteen year old Miguel Angel Ita, who's been charged in juvenile court with a multiple stabbing in Lakewood on April 21 in which 22-year-old Jose Barrera-Mendoza died.
The reason? The DA has already filed to move the case to adult court. Details below.
Barrera-Mendoza narrowly evaded death once before -- in December 2009, when he was eighteen. According to KOAA-TV, Andrea Hernandez-Almanza was behind the wheel of a Ford pickup when the vehicle crashed on Interstate 25 south of Fountain. Hernandez-Almanza is said to have veered onto the right shoulder of the roadway, then over-corrected, causing the vehicle to flip. Abelardo Mendoza-Garcia, 46, was killed in the crash, while the other occupants survived, but barely; Barrera-Mendoza, along with Mendoza-Garcia and an unnamed twelve year old, were ejected. No one was wearing seat belts.
Barrera-Mendoza would not cheat the odds during the wee hours of April 21. At approximately 1:50 a.m., the Lakewood Police Department received a disturbance report that brought officers to the parking lot of an apartment complex at 285 South Jay Street.
Upon their arrival, they discovered three stabbing victims. One of the trio is said to have suffered relatively minor injuries, but the other pair were transported to a local hospital, where a man later identified as Barrera-Mendoza was pronounced dead.
Before long, a juvenile male -- now ID'd as Ita -- was taken into custody, and during a hearing yesterday, he was charged with first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault and second-degree assault, plus five violent-crime-related offenses and eight aggravated-juvenile-offender beefs. The total: eighteen.
This matter took place in juvenile court. But Jeffco DA has filed a motion requesting a transfer hearing, so that Ita could be charged as an adult -- a procedure that likely has to do with changes in a rule known as "direct file." As our Alan Prendergast has reported, Colorado was one of just four states where prosecutors had discretion to prosecute offenders in the fourteen-to-seventeen age range in adult court without a judicial hearing on the issue. But those laws have changed, with the Ita case one of the first examples of how.
The date for a transfer hearing is expected to be set soon. In the meantime, a status conference in the case is scheduled for Monday, April 29.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Look below to see an interactive graphic of the area near the crime scene. If you have problems seeing the image, click "View Larger Map."
View Larger Map
More from our Mile High Murder archive: "Charles Edward Harris ID'd as victim in 38th and Grape homicide, suspect under arrest (72)."