A combined SWAT team waits outside the middle school entrance at STEM School Highlands Ranch after a shooting that killed one and wounded eight students. (John Leyba, Special to The Colorado Sun)

This story first appeared in a Colorado Community Media newspaper. Support CCM’s neighborhood news. The Colorado Sun is an owner of CCM.

The man convicted of first-degree murder in the deadly 2019 shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch was sentenced to two terms of of life in prison without the possibility of parole Friday, plus scores of additional years.

The sentencing of Devon Erickson by Douglas County District Judge Theresa Slade in a Castle Rock courtroom followed a lengthy hearing in which several people affected by the deadly attack told the judge how that day changed their lives forever.

“There is no describing the terror I still experience to this day when I encounter a flashback, hear a sudden loud noise or even when I wake up from a nightmare,” said Lauren Harper, the teacher in the school’s Room 107, where the shooting took place. “I still often have nightmares of that exact moment.”

Erickson’s family pleaded for leniency for someone they say they will always love.

“We love Devon unconditionally and we’re so confused how this could have ever happened,” Jim Erickson, Devon’s father, said. “We hope that someday others can forgive Devon.”

Erickson, 20, was convicted of first-degree murder earlier this summer for his role in the May 7, 2019, shooting, which left student Kendrick Castillo dead. Eight other students were injured.

Kendrick Castillo. (Colorado State Patrol handout)

Erickson was also found guilty of 44 other charges, including 31 counts of attempted first-degree murder. 

“There’s evil in the world, people who want to try to hurt and harm,” said John Castillo, Kendrick’s father, during the hearing. “That’s what this was.”

Castillo was fatally shot as he and several other students stormed Erickson to disarm him, according to testimony during the trial.

Another participant in the shooting, Alec McKinney, who pleaded guilty to dozens of charges in 2020, was sentenced last year to life in prison. He could eventually be eligible for parole since he was a juvenile — 16 — at the time of the crime.

Erickson was 18 at the time of the shooting.

Judge Slade spoke directly to Erickson before delivering her sentence,  giving her perspectives on the crimes he committed.

“I haven’t seen and I haven’t heard that you’ve accepted responsibilty for this,” she said. “No sentence I impose is going to change that. That’s on you.”

Read more at coloradocommunitymedia.com.

Colorado Community Media Email: jessthejourno@gmail.com Twitter: @JesstheJourno

Elliott Wenzler wrote about politics, water, housing, and other topics for The Colorado Sun from October 2022 through September 2023. She has covered community issues in Colorado since 2019, including for Colorado Community Media. She has been...