FORT COLLINS — The 22-year-old charged in connection with his roommate’s shooting death near Colorado State University in 2018 pleaded guilty Thursday to tampering with evidence associated with the death.
Colemann Carver of Cortez agreed to plead guilty to the felony charge as part of a deferred sentence that will keep him out of prison if he successfully completes all the conditions.
The mother of Finnegan Daly, a 21-year-old in his final year at CSU when he died, objected to the agreement offered by Larimer County prosecutors. “You all have Finnegan’s blood on your hands,” Gina Daly told the district attorney’s office in an email ahead of the court appearance.
The family’s frustration extends from the multitude of remaining questions about the Fort Collins police investigation in the early morning hours Jan. 14, 2018, when authorities say Daly grabbed Carver’s 9 mm handgun, put it to his chin and pulled the trigger.
Fort Collins police ruled Daly’s death an accidental, self-inflicted shooting and closed the case two months later.
As first reported by The Colorado Sun, the case was reopened after Daly’s family confronted the Fort Collins police chief with a glaring omission from the first case: an image posted to Snapchat by Daly that showed Carver holding the gun that killed him about 15 minutes before the 911 call at 3:27 a.m. The Snap contradicts Carver’s statements to police about what happened that night, but wasn’t mentioned in the initial investigative report.
In the second investigation, Carver gave police a different account of his actions that night, including admitting to tampering with the handgun before calling 911. The investigation led to his arrest June 7 on charges of prohibited use of a weapon and reckless endangerment, both misdemeanors, and felony tampering with physical evidence.
Carver was not charged with shooting Daly. The two misdemeanor charges were dismissed as part of that agreement, according to court records.
Carver is expected to be sentenced on Dec. 4, when he likely will receive a two-year deferred sentence. During those two years, Carver would be required to complete a substance abuse evaluation and treatment, and abstain from using alcohol, marijuana or other drugs not prescribed to him. He would also undergo random substance abuse testing and be ordered to complete community service — the number of hours would be up to Judge Susan Blanco.
Carver would also not be allowed to possess, use or own firearms during that period. He also must complete a National Rifle Association home-firearms safety course and write a 1,000-word essay on the dangers of using firearms while under the influence of alcohol — as he was the night Daly was shot.
If Carver completes all the terms of his deferred sentence, he can withdraw his guilty plea, a felony conviction would not enter on his record, and he can request that his record to be sealed from the public, Blanco advised him Thursday.
If Carver does not complete those terms, he could face 12 to 18 months in prison and a fine of as much as $100,000, Blanco said.
The Larimer County District Attorney’s office acknowledged to the judge at Thursday’s hearing that Daly’s family “has expressed objections to this agreement.” Because of that, the prosecution asked for an extended time for sentencing to allow the family to express their concerns.
“We feel that this is a fair resolution,” Carver’s attorney Derek Samuelson said, adding, “I want to make sure all voices in this case are heard.”
Blanco accepted the agreement and Carver’s guilty plea, “pending the arguments at sentencing.”
Sady Swanson is a reporter at The Coloradoan, a reporting partner of The Colorado Sun.