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Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (14)
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: July 20, 2005
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1990
Victim profile: Taylor DeMarco, 9
Method of murder: Shooting (.22-caliber handgun)
Location: Battlement Mesa, Colorado, USA
Status: Sentenced to 10 years (four in a juvenile justice facility and 6 in state prison) on December 23, 2005

Parents Consider Wrongful Death Suit For Son's Death

January 04, 2006

The parents of a 9-year-old boy who was shot and killed by a 14-year-old last summer have threatened to file a civil lawsuit against the 14-year-old's parents.

Eric Alan Stoneman was sentenced in December to 10 years (four in a juvenile justice facility and 6 in state prison) for the shooting death of Taylor Demarco.

Taylor's parents, Bill DeMarco and Wendi Robyn, opposed any change in the first-degree murder and charges filed against Stoneman as an adult by District Attorney Colleen Truden's office. That meant a murder conviction would have sent Stoneman to prison for the rest of his life without parole.

Stoneman shot and killed Taylor DeMarco with his mother's .22-caliber handgun on July 20 after he had reportedly been taunted by DeMarco and a third youth. He went home and returned with the gun, pointed it at the two boys, put the barrel in his own mouth to apparently show the safety was on, but shot Taylor DeMarco once in the chest.

In addition to threatening a wrongful death lawsuit, the DeMarcos may ask Colorado lawmakers to consider a bill holding parents responsible when their children use guns.


14-year-old takes plea in killing of Taylor DeMarco

By Mike McKibbin - The Daily Sentinel

Friday, December 23, 2005

GLENWOOD SPRINGS A 14-year-old who faced life in prison without parole in the shooting death of 9-year-old Taylor DeMarco of Battlement Mesa last summer was sentenced Thursday instead to 10 years in jail.

Eric Alan Stoneman will first spend four years in a juvenile jail, then six years in state prison.

Stoneman pleaded guilty to charges of reckless manslaughter, menacing with a deadly weapon and resisting arrest in a plea agreement with prosecutors.

At the earliest, Stoneman will be 22 when he can apply for parole.

DeMarco died of a single .22-caliber gunshot wound to his chest at a Battlement Mesa home of a third boy July 20. The three boys were apparent friends and had argued that day, according to earlier testimony, when Eric Stoneman brought his mother’s handgun to the third boy’s home and shot DeMarco.

Stoneman was originally charged with first-degree murder and six other offenses as an adult, which would have meant a mandatory sentence of life in an adult prison without parole upon conviction.

“I do not accept this plea agreement,” Bill DeMarco, Taylor’s father, told Garfield County District Court Judge T. Peter Craven. “Two years is not enough. Ten years is not enough. This man (gesturing toward Assistant District Attorney Vincent Felletter) is plea bargaining first-degree murder down to manslaughter. It’s not right. None of this is right.”

DeMarco also said Stoneman’s mother, Valorie, should be held accountable because Stoneman used her gun.

After addressing Craven, DeMarco lightly kissed a portrait of Taylor. He also held a small container with some of the ashes of his cremated son. Taylor’s mother, Wendi Robyn, sat in the back row with another picture of Taylor and sobbed into a handkerchief. She did not address Craven but had earlier said she opposed a plea bargain.

Felletter told Craven he realized no one is totally happy with the outcome “because nothing can bring back Taylor.”

Felletter said Stoneman was charged as an adult “to bring about adult consequences for what he did. But a 14-year-old doesn’t have the same capacity and ability to reason as an adult.”

Mental health issues he could not elaborate on because of Stoneman’s age also played a role in the decision to seek a plea bargain, Felletter said, as did differing statements made during the shooting and in the following weeks and months.

Four years in a juvenile justice facility will offer Stoneman a chance to “change his life for the better,” Felletter said. “Then when he turns 18 and goes to an adult prison, he will see what he did was extremely serious and he’s being punished” for the next six years.

Public Defender Greg Greer said the plea agreement was “at the top end of the gamut of what the law offers in these cases.”

“No one will be happy, though,” he said. “I won’t be happy with this resolution. This case is a tragedy for three families, and there’s no happy ending.”

Stoneman answered, “Yes, sir,” to several questions from Craven to make sure he understood the details and consequences of pleading guilty. He declined to make a statement before Craven issued the sentence.

Craven said the ramifications and human suffering in the case wouldn’t end “regardless of what this judge does.”

“I can only apply the Colorado Criminal Code, but the effects for three families are something they’re going to have to deal with for the rest of their lives,” he said.

Stoneman’s attorneys agreed he would not seek parole until he is 22. Felletter and Greer agreed there is no guarantee Stoneman will be granted parole if he makes that request.

The packed courtroom included about a dozen heavily armed security guards inside and in surrounding hallways. Courtroom visitors were required to go through metal detectors before they entered.

Stoneman’s mother, Valorie Stoneman, said after the hearing that she didn’t agree with the outcome “but if it’s the best way to get help for my son, maybe it’s the best we could do. My main goal even before this happened was to help Eric get better.”

Bill DeMarco’s reactions to his son’s death and his court outbursts were no surprise, either, she said.

“But all this negativity won’t bring his son back,” Stoneman said. “I don’t have any ill feelings toward anyone.”

DeMarco’s statement about her gun being used in Taylor DeMarco’s death was “more hurt talking,” Stoneman said.

“I wasn’t there and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t kick myself for having a gun in the house,” she said. “Coming at me about it won’t bring their child back. I hurt for them. We’ve all lost in this. My child has lost his childhood. We are not monsters. We are all human beings, and we deserve to be treated that way.”

After the hearing, DeMarco expressed anger at the plea bargain, which he learned about for the first time at the hearing. He promised to dedicate his life to “make those people pay. I don’t get my son back in 10 years.”

“They just sent a message to the world, you can shoot a kid and get 10 years for it, when they knew they could prove first-degree murder,” Bill DeMarco said.

After the hearing, Felletter said the recall of District Attorney Colleen Truden Dec. 13 and the likelihood he won’t be asked to remain by District Attorney-elect Martin Beeson would mean someone else may have taken over the case. But the new prosecutor would have had only a short time before it would have gone to trial, which was scheduled for March 20-31, he said.

“I didn’t want the case fumbled,” he said.

If the recall election had failed, Felletter said, he would still have likely pursued a plea bargain, even though he was confident a jury would have convicted Stoneman.

“The evidence was there for first-degree murder,” Felletter said.


Hearing Held For High-country Shooting, Wrongful Death Suit Vs. Parent Likely

November 23, 2005

On this high plateau overlooking the Colorado River one day last summer, a single shot was fired that still echoes across the rugged landscape. Nine-year-old Taylor Allen DeMarco died within minutes and now, Eric Alan Stoneman, 14, is charged as an adult with first-degree murder and could go to prison for the rest of his life if convicted. And in the background still lies the possibility that a wrongful death suit may be filed against Stoneman's mother.

A 13-year-old friend, the lone witness to the shooting, has changed his story several times about what occurred July 20, 2004. 'In my heart, I know it was an accident,' said Valorie Stoneman, whose .22-caliber semi-automatic handgun was taken from beneath her bed and used by her son. 'Lashing out at me isn't going to make anything better,' she said through tears that took only brief pauses during a long interview. 'I've lost everything I had. My son. Everything.'

Emotions have run high between Taylor and Eric's families, beginning with Eric's initial court appearance the day after the shooting, where Bill DeMarco, the dead child's 39-year-old father, had to be restrained by sheriff's deputies from attacking the young defendant.

After Eric's preliminary hearing, Taylor DeMarco's mother, Wendi Robyn, issued a lengthy statement, suggesting that Eric would pay for the crime 'not on this earth but in eternity.' She dismissed any contention that the shooting was an accident. 'How can an 'innocent person' threaten to return . . . with a gun, actually return with one, point the gun at two boys, threatening to kill them, chase them into another room and threaten to shoot out the door, and then actually shoot one of them, and killing him call it an accident?' she asked. 'How is that possible? His moment of clarity occurred after the incident.' Eric Stoneman's trial is set to begin March 20.

The families of both Taylor and Eric, who had lived a tenth of a mile apart, moved off the mesa - and in opposite directions - immediately after the shooting. It had been Robyn's plan to do so even before losing the fourth of her five children. She's now living in a quiet residential neighborhood of Fruita. Stoneman, who never slept another night in her home after her son's arrest, is staying in a modest apartment in downtown Rifle. 'Eric is a very loving kid,' said his mother, 44. 'He was - is - still my life. And I understand their pain and their anger,' she said of Taylor's family. 'I'm sure those people are having a hard time. I'm not just hurting for my son. I hurt for all the families.'

Battlement Mesa is glitteringly described on its Web site as 'one of the most luxurious communities in the country.' And while the rolling 3,200- acre development encompasses subdivisions such as The Reserve - featuring 4,000-square- foot homes going for as much as $500,000 - it also includes the Saddleback mobile home park. There, where monthly rents are in the $500-to-$600 range, Eric and Taylor became acquainted through activities such as skateboarding and playing video games. They were not close, however. 'I had never heard (Eric's) name before' the shooting, said Wendi Robyn. 'After the fact, I heard a lot of stories' about him.

Eric and Taylor had more than a little in common. Both struggled in school. Eric, described by his mother as a 'special needs' child with attention deficit disorder, had suffered teasing at the hands of his peers. Taylor repeated kindergarten and battled a bit of a speech impediment. His mother, too, worried that he might have been teased by other kids. Both boys had seen their parents split up recently.

Juvenile court case filings in Garfield County are surging, according to 9th Judicial District Attorney Colleen Truden: 116 for the first nine months of this year, compared with 69 during the same period in 2004. In a grim foreshadowing of Taylor's death, a 12-year-old Battlement Mesa boy, Nick Jones, was shot to death in 2003 at the home of one of his friends. As in the case of Taylor's death, three boys - all of whom attended the same school as Taylor, Bea Underwood Elementary - were in the home when Nick Jones was killed. In another parallel to Taylor's case, no adults were present. But the shooting of Nick Jones was ruled an accident.

Bill DeMarco, who readily admits to still being as angry as his courtroom aggression toward Eric suggests, said Eric's mother and father are guilty of negligence for not keeping closer tabs on their troubled son. 'I think the parents ought to be held just as responsible as the child is,' said DeMarco.

The first-degree-murder charge filed Sept. 27 against Eric Stoneman alleges that the shooting took place 'unlawfully, feloniously, after deliberation,' and with the intent to cause death. Eric Warde, the 13-year-old at whose home the shooting occurred, was the uneasy star witness at Eric Stoneman's preliminary hearing last month in Garfield County District Court. Although he's the prosecution's lone eyewitness, he was called to the stand by public defender Greg Greer.

Prosecutors hoped to be able to meet the probable cause requirement by calling only sheriff's investigators, and without calling Eric Warde, who has told several contradictory stories about the shooting. For the same reason, Eric Stoneman's public defenders wanted Eric Warde on the stand.

Eric Warde, slightly built and sporting a hooded sweatshirt and well-worn jeans, described a day of squabbling among the threesome and threats by Eric Stoneman that he would kill Taylor. 'I didn't think that he was actually serious because I was used to it,' said Eric Warde. After Eric Stoneman went home in the early afternoon and came back carrying his mother's handgun, Taylor and Eric Warde locked themselves in a bathroom.

But soon they emerged and all three ended up sitting around in the living room. In the moments before Taylor was shot, Eric Stoneman allegedly pointed the gun at his own head, idly stuck it in his own mouth, aimed it briefly at Eric Warde, and even let Taylor hold it for a moment before taking it back. Eric Warde admitted at the preliminary hearing that he wasn't looking when the gun suddenly went off, striking Taylor in the chest.

Garfield County animal control officer Aimee Chappelle testified that when she saw Eric Stoneman handcuffed in the back of a patrol car, he was inconsolable, nearly hysterical. ' 'This is just a dream, right?' ' she heard him wailing. ' 'I'm going to wake up, right?' . . . He kept asking me if his mother would love him after this, and if Taylor's parents would kill him. Eric Stoneman stated, 'I'm going to burn in hell. I'm going to prison for the rest of my life, aren't I?' '

Valorie Stoneman was at work when the shooting happened and out of cell phone range. That evening, when she saw her son in custody, 'He asked me how Taylor was, and I told him he died,' she said. 'He was crying, saying, 'Mom, it was an accident, you have to believe me.' And I said, 'Don't tell me anymore.' It was to protect him. The less I know, the less I can be asked,' Valorie Stoneman said. 'But I seriously don't believe that Eric thought that gun was going to shoot. I think he thought the safety was on.' She said she knew her son was aware that she owned a gun. But she didn't know he knew where she kept it.

Sharon Robyn, Taylor's 57- year-old grandmother, wears her grief over the violent loss of her grandson like a second skin she can't shed. She still finds it extremely difficult to talk about his death. She wants to urge people, she said, to 'pay attention to your kids . . . Just spend a little time with them. Even if you're too tired. 'It's hard when you're working and you're tired, when life has kicked you in the hind end a few times. But just let them know that you are on their side.'


Stoneman pleads not guilty

Teenager appears in court on first-degree murder charge from July 20 shooting

By Donna Gray - Post Independent Staff

October 20, 2005

Eric Alan Stoneman, 14, pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder Wednesday in Glenwood Springs District Court after a day-long hearing in which the only eyewitness told a chilling story of a day when boys’ arguments turned deadly.

District Court Judge Thomas Ossola found probable cause to charge Stoneman with premeditated murder. The boy allegedly shot and killed Taylor DeMarco, 9, inside a mobile home in Battlement Mesa on July 20.

During the hearing, Taylor’s father, Bill DeMarco, placed a small container with some of his son’s ashes on the railing. He also propped a picture of his son against the container facing the judge, the attorneys, and Stoneman.

Stoneman, clad in a blue shirt with white stripes, repeatedly turned back toward his mother and father, who were sitting behind him. At times, he smiled and mouthed words to them. But as the hearing wore on, his head dropped to his chest.

At a morning recess called by the judge, DeMarco, who had watched the exchanges, said to Stoneman, “I don’t think you have a whole lot to smile about. I’ll wipe that smile off your face.”

He then left the courtroom clutching his son’s picture to his chest. As he left, he said, “I don’t trust myself. There ain’t a guy in there (referring to the deputies stationed in the courtroom) that can stop me. I don’t trust myself.”

As in earlier hearings, security was tight both inside and outside the courtroom. DeMarco was ejected from an earlier hearing when he threatened Stoneman and his family. People wishing to sit in the courtroom had to pass through a metal detector and had coats and bags searched. Deputies were posted inside the courtroom and surrounded the defense table where Stoneman sat after DeMarco made his comments.

In a courtroom taut with drama, witnesses recounted the moments just after DeMarco’s death. The most stunning testimony came from the only eyewitness to the shooting. Eric Warde, 13, said the three boys were in a bedroom of his mobile home playing video games and had been arguing off and on during the day.

Stoneman left, and about 10 minutes later returned with a handgun, according to Warde. He said that he and DeMarco hid in a bedroom, locking the door, then retreated to a bathroom, again locking themselves in.

Warde testified that Stoneman said, “This gun can go through the door.”

Warde eventually unlocked the door and the boys came back into the living room. There, Warde said, Stoneman pointed the gun at both Warde and DeMarco, and at one point handed the gun to DeMarco assuring him the safety was on and it wouldn’t go off. Warde said Stoneman pointed the gun at him, then held it to his own head and put it in his mouth. Warde said he was frightened and was looking down at the time, then heard a shot go off.

“Taylor screamed and opened the (front) door and ran out,” Warde said.

DeMarco died outside in a pool of blood on steps of the mobile home.

Under cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Vince Felletter, Warde admitted he told conflicting versions of the incident. Stoneman’s public defender Greg Greer repeatedly objected to Felletter’s calling Warde on statements he’d made to law enforcement officers at the scene of the shooting and later to sheriff’s investigators.

However, what came out in Warde’s testimony Wednesday was a compelling picture of Warde and DeMarco being afraid of Stoneman.

“Isn’t it true that the defendant threatened you, not just on that day, and that once he had you in a headlock and made you pass out,” and that he also, before July 20, had pointed a gun at Warde, Felletter asked.

In a low voice, Warde said, “Yes.”

During his testimony, Warde portrayed Stoneman as an angry boy who made threats that he would kill both DeMarco and Warde, and carried them out on DeMarco on that hot July day.

Felletter, reading from a investigator’s report of an interview with Warde, asked Warde if he’d told the investigator when Stoneman pointed the gun at the boys he said to Taylor, “I’m going to kill you,” and that he said it “in the strangest way.”

Again, Warde answered, “Yes.”

Greer, however, questioned Warde’s statements to investigators about Stoneman making repeated threats to kill both the boys.

“He told you he was just trying to scare you and (the shooting) was just an accident,” Greer said.

Warde agreed.

Felletter argued that the shooting was premeditated and Stoneman deliberated before doing so. And although “there are some inconsistencies” in Warde’s statements to investigators, “he did make plenty of statements that Eric Stoneman said he would kill Taylor DeMarco. It wasn’t just kids playing around.”

Stoneman, he said, went back to his home and retrieved the .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun from between the box spring and mattress of his parents’ bed and took it back to Eric Warde’s house, pointed it at their heads and said to DeMarco, “I’m going to shoot you. He doesn’t say it like he’s playing around,” Felletter said.

Greer, however, argued the first-degree murder charge should be thrown out because Warde also said “over and over” to investigators that Stoneman was only trying to scare DeMarco and didn’t intend to shoot him.

“There isn’t enough evidence by any standard” for a first-degree murder charge, he said. “Deliberation does not exist in this case. Intent does not exist in this case. First degree murder is not a charge that should go against this 13-year-old boy.”

In making his ruling, Ossola said from Warde’s statements, he found there was enough evidence to support a charge of first-degree murder.

After the ruling, Greer said Stoneman would plead not guilty to the charges against him, including first-degree assault and menacing with a deadly weapon.

If convicted, Stoneman faces the possibility of life in prison without parole.

He will appear in court Nov. 3, when a date will be set for his trial. Felletter said he expects the trial could run for two weeks.


Teen facing first-degree murder charge in shooting death of 9-year-old

The Associated Press

September 29, 2005

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A 14-year-old boy accused of fatally shooting a 9-year-old boy will be prosecuted as an adult on a charge of first-degree murder, a decision that could result in a life sentence if he is convicted.

Eric Alan Stoneman is believed to be the youngest person charged with murder in the 9th Judicial District, District Attorney Colleen Truden said.

Stoneman faces multiple charges in the July 20 slaying of Taylor DeMarco, who was shot once in the chest at a home in Battlement Mesa.

“The aggravated circumstances and deliberate intent speak for themselves,” Truden said after a court hearing Wednesday. Truden said she would not seek the death penalty, but the first-degree murder charge carries a mandatory life sentence.

Stoneman would have faced a maximum seven years in prison if charged and convicted as a juvenile.

Taylor’s mother, Wendi Robyn, told The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction that she felt it was the right decision to charge Stoneman as an adult.

“It doesn’t help with our loss,” said Robyn, who now lives in Fruita. “To me, this is totally separate from Taylor’s death, and I don’t give a whole lot of thought about the case. I’m still in mourning and in grief.”

A 13-year-old witness told investigators that he, Stoneman and Taylor were playing when an argument broke out and Stoneman left and returned with a .22-caliber automatic pistol. The witness originally told investigators that Stoneman forced Taylor to beg for his life, but he later changed his story.

Stoneman told police it was an accident.

An affidavit for a search warrant said the shooting occurred in the living room of the 13-year-old boy’s home, and Taylor then ran outside to the front gate, tried to open the gate, then ran back toward the residence before collapsing and dying on the top porch step.

Stoneman also faces felony charges of manslaughter, first-degree assault, and menacing with a deadly weapon, plus misdemeanor charges of possession of a handgun by a juvenile, prohibited use of a weapon and discharge of that weapon, and resisting arrest.

The hearing Wednesday was held under tight security after Taylor’s father, Bill DeMarco, had to be held back from Stoneman during another hearing in July.

Stoneman was being held without bond at a juvenile detention center.



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