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Man who killed girlfriend as 14-year-old gets 15 years to life in prison

(Rick Egan)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Standing just a few feet away from the man who murdered her daughter, Veronica Kasprzak-Bratcher on Monday read directly from her daughter's diary about the first time the two met.

"There's a kid in my math class I really like," Anne Grace Kasprzak wrote on May 8, 2011, after meeting Darwin Christopher Bagshaw.

Anne wrote several more entries in her journal about how much she liked him.

But a year later, almost to the day, Kasprzak would be dead because of the actions of the boy she liked so much.

"Her only mistake was falling in love with the hope of a future with you," the girl's mother said as she turned and looked directly at Bagshaw.

On Monday, Bagshaw — who was 14 when he violently beat his 15-year-old girlfriend in an isolated area of the Jordan Parkway and left her lifeless body in the Jordan River — was ordered to serve 15 years to life at the Utah State Prison.

In February, Bagshaw pleaded guilty to murder, a first-degree felony, for the 2012 death.

"I'm very sorry for everything," a soft spoken Bagshaw told the judge before sentencing.

Bagshaw said he was nervous about speaking in front of a room full of reporters and cameras and hoped to apologize to Kasprzak's family in private at a future time so it appeared more sincere.

No motive had ever officially been given for the crime. But on Monday, defense attorney Chirs Bown said Bagshaw "snapped" when Kasprzak confronted him about being pregnant with his child and wanted him to run away with her or she would tell his parents.

Both sides, however, were still in dispute about whether the murder was premeditated or whether it was the result of an impulsive act from an immature 14-year-old.

"To make this into a malicious act … is not correct," Bown said.

Deputy district attorney Peter Leavitt disagreed.

"This was planned," he said. "He wanted her dead. And he did a lot of planning and scheming to make sure he achieved that goal."

Regardless of whether it was planned, 3rd District Judge James T. Blanch noted, "Nobody walks out of this courtroom happy."

Man who killed girlfriend as 14-year-old gets 15 years to life in prison

In 2012, Kasprzak sneaked out of her Riverton home at night to meet up with Bagshaw. On Monday, Bown revealed that the two actually first met at Riverton City Park and walked down to the Jordan Parkway together. At that point, he said they were "joking" and having a good night.

Kasprzak left a note for her parents on the night she disappeared, saying she was going to run away with Bagshaw to California. She also told several of her friends she was pregnant with Bagshaw's child. But pregnancy tests given by her parents before she was killed, as well as the state autopsy, confirmed that she was not pregnant.

The state claims Bagshaw lured Kasprzak out of her house to kill her. The defense contends he happened to find a shovel lying on the parkway and, faced with the pressure of having to tell his parents that Anne was pregnant, "snapped" and used it to smash her face.

"He was confronted with a situation that he did not have the capacity to process in the correct way," Bown said.

The defense attorney also revealed Monday that Bagshaw had smoked spice that night.

During the attack, Kasprzak's skull was crushed and multiple bones in her face were broken. Bagshaw repeatedly hit her in the head with a shovel. Her body was discovered the next day in the water.

Although Bagshaw was questioned immediately by police, he wasn't arrested until 2014, due in part to Draper police originally arresting a man who had nothing to do with the case.

But Leavitt and members of Kasprzak's family say the fact he never stepped forward shows his lack of remorse.

Bagshaw's guilty plea "ultimately was an act of self preservation," Leavitt argued. "When the writing was on the wall, when his lies weren't going to save him anymore, he pled guilty."

It was a sentiment echoed by members of Kasprzak's family.

"He had every single day he could have come forward and say, 'I'm sorry,'" Jennifer Kasprzak, the victim's step-mother, said.

"I'm sorry, but culpability at 14 is there," said Dennis Kasprzak, Anne's father, who acknowledged that accidents happen. "But we don't move forward for 2 1Ž2 years without saying a word. We don't plan and avoid taking responsibility for those actions. We don't let somebody else get arrested for this crime.

"You know what you did," he later exclaimed while pointing at Bagshaw.

Dennis Kasprzak emotionally spoke before the court for about 25 minutes prior to sentencing, wavering between tears of sadness and anger as he described having to identify his daughter's body.

"What I saw there, your honor, wasn't my daughter. It was something you'd see being hit by a train. The facial trauma, and the anger and the rage — impulsive or not, 14 or not — wasn't one hit with a shovel. It would have been repeated hits over and over. The medical examiner said at least 15 times," he said.

Only the dimple on Anne's chin was recognizable. "Otherwise, it wasn't her," he said.

The father described the trouble all of his family has had coping with his daughter's death over the past four years, how it cost him his second marriage, and how he turned to alcohol and drugs to deal with the pain. After several pauses and looking over at Bagshaw, Kasprzak admitted Monday that before the arrest, he came close to taking "matters into my own hands."

"I still have nightmares. Nightmares never go away. Occasionally they're scattered. I still wake up in cold sweats on a regular basis," he said.

Kasprzak said he's not happy that Bagshaw has earned his GED since being incarcerated and is not happy he will go on to take college courses while in prison. These are all things that his daughter will never have the opportunity to do, he reminded the judge.

Kasprzak-Bratcher, while also saying that she believed the murder was planned, also told Bagshaw that she forgives him.

"(But) don't think for a moment that because I forgive you that I will ever forget," she said.

"You wanted Annie to go away in the most permanent way possible. … You wanted this to be forgotten. Well now you have to face me," Kasprzak-Bratcher said, vowing to attend every parole and court hearing he has for the rest of his life.

She then challenged Bagshaw to prove to her that he had changed by making a donation to the Humane Society of Utah every month for the rest of his life, because her daughter loved animals.

"We will never forget Annie, and the night you decided her future was better than hers," she said.

Although Bagshaw's sentence was already pre-determined by statute, the defense pointed out their displeasure with the current laws on how to deal with a juvenile charged with an adult crime. They had a doctor testify that a juvenile's mind is still developing into their late 20s and early 30s. Juveniles, he said, "do stupid things. They say stupid things. … They're not thinking about consequences."

Emotions often drive a juvenile's behavior, Dr. Matt Davies said. He added that while he wasn't saying that a 14-year-old shouldn't be held accountable for his actions, he noted that treatment intervention during adolescent years of development are more valuable than locking someone up.

The delay in Bagshaw's arrest played a role during his adult certification hearing a year ago. The judge noted that Bagshaw, who was just a couple of months away from turning 18, would only be held in state custody for three years if he were convicted in the juvenile system, but faced a minimum of 15-years — and likely 20 years based on the sentencing matrix — in adult prison.

Blanch called the murder "chilling" and "unspeakably vicious," whether it was premeditated or not.

"A terrible crimes deserves a serious sentence," the judge said. "You will have an opportunity at redemption at some point. … This will never go away. This is something you'll have to live with for the rest of your life. But you will have the opportunity at redemption."

Under the current sentencing matrix, Bagshaw will likely serve at least 20 years in prison.

Contributing: Nicole Vowell

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