‘I plead guilty’: 16-year-old faces life for brutally killing 10-year-old Kiaya Campbell

A Colorado teen has pleaded guilty to the 2017 murder of 10-year-old Kiaya Campbell.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, the girl disappeared in June of that year and her remains were discovered the following day. The teenage son of the woman her father was dating soon emerged as a prime suspect.

According to the Denver Post, 16-year-old Aidan Zellmer has since been charged with criminal counts including first-degree murder and first-degree murder of a child under 12 years old.

Prosecutors agreed to drop one count as part of a plea deal with the teen, as reported by the Washington Times.

“I plead guilty,” the teen announced in court on Friday as his mother sat crying in a wheelchair nearby.

Zellmer is set to be sentenced next month and could receive a term of life behind bars with a chance to be eligible for parole at the age of 56.

District Attorney Dave Young, however, noted that additional opportunities to scale back his sentence through good behavior means Zellmer could be free in 30 years even with the maximum sentence. After 25 years behind bars, he could also participate in a prison program designed for young offenders.

Though he was charged as an adult, Zellmer will spend the remainder of his childhood in a juvenile detention facility before moving to a traditional prison upon reaching his 18th birthday.

Adams County District Court Judge Sharon Holbrook addressed the court at the time of the defendant’s plea, concluding that “emotions, in this case, have been high and quite frankly legitimately so.”

[Featured image: Kiaya Campbell, Thornton Police Department]