An 18-year-old has admitting to raping and murdering a 12-year-old girl whose naked body was found in a horse pasture near her home in July 2015.
Jayden Matthew Sterzer took a plea deal on Monday, that will ensure he stays in a juvenile detention facility until he’s 21.
At that point, he will be sentenced as an adult and sent to an adult prison to serve out the remainder of his sentence.
Jayden Matthew Sterzer admitted to raping and murdering a 12-year-old girl whose naked body was found in a field about a half-mile from her house in July 2015. Pictured in court on Monday
Sterzer took a plea deal on Monday that should ensure she spends the next three years in a juvenile detention facility before entering adult prison. Pictured in court on Monday
Sterzer was 15 years old when he showed up at his neighbor Kailey Vijil’s home and said he needed help looking for a lost pregnant cat.
Investigators say Vijil took the girl to a horse pasture about a half-mile from her home where he proceeded to rape her and then strangle her with his tank top.
Vijil was quickly noticed missing by her family, jump-starting a massive search effort in the area.
Vijil’s body was found about three hours later, her batman pajamas nearby and the tank top still wrapped around her throat.
Sterzer lured 12-year-old neighbor Kailey Vijil from her home just before midnight on July 16, 2015, saying he needed help finding a lost pregnant cat
Vijil’s body was found in this horse pasture three hours after she went missing. Investigators say Sterzer strangled her with his t-shirt after sexually assaulting her
On Monday, Sterzer appeared in both juvenile and adult court to take responsibility for Vijil’s rape and murder.
In juvenile court, Sterzer pleaded guilty to rape of a child. The sentence for that crime will be fulfilled when he leaves the juvenile system in three years.
In adult court, Sterzer pleaded guilty to murder and sexual abuse of a child. His sentence for those two charges will be decided when he enters adult prison at 21. The murder charge carries a 15 years to life in prison sentence and the sexual abuse charge has a one- to 15-year penalty.
It has been a long road to justice for Vijil’s family. They attended the hearings on Monday but did not make a statement.
For the past two-and-a-half years, Sterzer has been deemed unfit to stand trial. But that changed in November when he was finally deemed competent.
‘That’s a huge relief to them,’ the family’s attorney Spencer Banks said on Monday. ‘Otherwise, that was definitely a concern they had in the back of their minds, of whether he was going to revert back to being incompetent or not.’
Sterzer’s attorney, Michael Sikora, says Sterzer operates at a third-grade level cognitively, so it was important for him to make sure that he stayed in the juvenile system for as long as possible.
‘Intellectually he operates at about the level of third grader,’ Sikora said. ‘It was just very, very important to try and do what we could to keep him in the juvenile system for the next 3 years because we just don’t think in any way, shape or form he’s prepared for a lengthy stay at the Utah State Prison.’