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SALT LAKE CITY — A boy who was just 14 when he allegedly beat 15-year-old Anne Kasprzak to death in 2012 and dumped her body in the Jordan River was certified Tuesday to stand trial as an adult.
Darwin Chris Bagshaw, now 17, will face a charge of murder, a first-degree felony, in 3rd District Court.
Third District Juvenile Court Judge Dane Nolan did not, however, bind over a charge of obstruction of justice to adult court. That case will remain in juvenile court.
"We are very relieved and grateful to the court and Judge Nolan for his ruling today," Dennis and Jennifer Kasprzak, Anne's father and stepmother, said in a prepared statement. "Thank you again to the Draper city police detectives, the district attorney's office, and countless friends and family members that have gotten us to this next step. We love you, Annie. We miss you, and we feel you with us each and every day."
Until now, KSL has not named Bagshaw, of Grand Junction, Colorado, because of his juvenile court status.
It's been more than a month since prosecutors and defense attorneys presented their final arguments and Nolan took the case under advisement. The biggest issue the judge faced was looking at the potential sentences Bagshaw would face in each court if he were found guilty.
While admitting in his ruling that adult prison would not be easy for Bagshaw if convicted and that the teen would likely become a person more likely to reoffend if he went to prison rather than staying in juvenile court, Nolan said the decision to certify Bagshaw as an adult was made because of the horrendous nature of the crime and the need for justice to be served for the Kasprzak family.
In juvenile court, Bagshaw would have been released from state custody when he turned 21. He will turn 18 in June.
Prosecutors argued that the nature of the crime deserved more than a potential three-year sentence. If convicted in adult court, he could spend a minimum of 15 years in prison and likely more than 20 years under the state's sentencing matrix.
We are very relieved and grateful to the court and Judge Nolan for his ruling today. Thank you again to the Draper city police detectives, the district attorney's office, and countless friends and family members that have gotten us to this next step. We love you, Annie. We miss you, and we feel you with us each and every day.
–Dennis and Jennifer Kasprzak
For a week and a half in March, the two sides presented their reasons for and against Bagshaw facing a murder trial in adult court.
In his ruling, Nolan said it was important to note that "Chris has denied responsibility for the crime of murder." He wrote that the seriousness of the offense, as well as the aggressive and willful manner in which it was committed, were also important factors in his decision.
Bagshaw is accused of luring Kasprzak to an isolated area near the Jordan River at night, crushing her skull and breaking multiple bones in her face before dumping her body in the river.
Kasprzak had told Bagshaw, her boyfriend, that she was pregnant with his child. She left a note for her parents on the night she disappeared saying she was going to run away with him to California. She also told several of her friends at school about her pregnancy. But pregnancy tests given by her parents before she was killed, as well as the state autopsy, confirmed she was not pregnant.
As for the maturity level of Bagshaw, who was 14 when he allegedly killed Kasprzak, Nolan noted that outside of mild marijuana and alcohol use, the teen did not have significant mental health disorders or anger issues, or a learning disability, according to the ruling.
Nolan also noted that psychologists did not believe Bagshaw was a high risk to reoffend, and he has not had any behavioral problems while being incarcerated for six months.
However, the judge said he couldn't ignore the steps Bagshaw allegedly took to cover up his crime. He said Bagshaw "had the ability to assess a difficult situation, commit to a major course of action, plan for and follow through with that action, to later realize he was in trouble, and then choose to subvert the police investigation by lying and casting suspicion toward someone else. This is beyond the ability of most 14-year-olds."
Bagshaw's defense attorneys had argued in court that sending the teen to prison would only result in making him a better criminal when he got out.
"If Chris is sent to prison by the district court, the court is under no illusion that such an experience will be good for him," Nolan conceded in his ruling. "He would be a low-risk person living with high-risk prisoners. The environment will have a negative lifelong impact."
Nolan further acknowledged that, "if convicted, (Bagshaw) will be imprisoned for more than two decades, and once released, his behavior will be the worse for it."
Again, however, Nolan noted that "the murder itself was horrendous," and Bagshaw had made no efforts to seek treatment before being arrested.
The judge also wrote that it was important to consider the impact Anne's murder had on her family.
Giving Kasprzak's family justice was in the public's best interest, Nolan wrote in his decision. If Bagshaw were tried in juvenile court, "holding him accountable for such a short amount of time is not in the public's best interest," Nolan wrote.
Acknowledging that Bagshaw's case was not routine, Nolan said there was a better chance for a plea bargain and a sentence that was appropriate to the teen's needs if he were certified to stand trial as an adult.
Bagshaw's next hearing is scheduled for April 30.