A judge set a $2 million cash-only bond Wednesday for each of the three teens charged with first-degree murder in a rock-throwing spree that killed 20-year-old Alexa Bartell and injured several others.
Joseph Koenig, Nicholas “Mitch” Karol-Chik and Zachary Kwak, all 18, must also surrender their passport and driver’s license, comply with protection orders against victims in the case, are prohibited from drinking alcohol and must be monitored by GPS, 1st Judicial District Court Judge Christopher Zenisek said during a hearing Wednesday morning in Jefferson County.
Zenisek denied a request to set bond at $10 million by the prosecution, who argued that the three young men’s actions “was indiscriminate murder” and that their release from jail would put the community at risk.
“There’s no amount that will alleviate the pain that the victims are feeling and have expressed here and I am sorry for your loss, and there is no amount that adequately will symbolize the importance of that individual to this community,” Zenisek said. “So, that’s not what the court is seeking to do here. This is a different task before the court that is to set bond appropriately as the court must do with regard to each of these individuals before the court.”
All three men have been held in jail without bond since they were arrested in their respective Arvada homes late April.
They are suspected of throwing large rocks at a string of cars shortly after 10 p.m. on April 19 in Westminster.
That included an attack in which they hurled a cannonball-size rock at another woman driving along Colorado 93, prosecutors said in court Wednesday morning. After the rock struck the driver’s side window, glass shattered into her eyes, injured her head and neck, ripped a hole through her car’s leather seat and broke the rear window of the car. The woman slammed on her brakes in the middle of the highway.
Bartell was the last person struck. Prosecutors said Koenig was driving 80 mph on Indiana Street when the teens launched the rock at Bartell’s yellow Chevy Spark as she was talking on the phone with a friend. The rock smashed through her front windshield and struck her in her head.
Alexa Bartell’s family pleaded for the judge not to grant bond.
Kelly Bartell, Alexa’s mother, stood at the dais recounting the “terrifying” five-minute drive to the field where Alexa’s body was found next to her car, which had run off the road and into a field after the rock flew through her windshield and hit her only child in the head.
“I wake up every day reliving this nightmare over and over. I will never be able to hug my baby, to hold her, to laugh with her and to watch her live her life with all the experiences that she will never be able to have. That was taken from me by these three individuals who chose to kill my daughter by throwing a rock through her windshield,” Kelly Bartell said, her voice quavering.
Greg Bartell, Alexa’s father, told the judge several of his family members are afraid to drive, fearing something similar could happen to them. He called the defendants a danger to the community.
“Our fear as a family is with the release of these gentlemen, that may happen to another innocent individual. While these men are contemplating the thought of freedom our family is plagued with the forever loss of our loved one,” said Greg Bartell, who attended the hearing virtually.
When setting bond and weighing flight risk, Zenisek considered the three teens’ age, lack of criminal histories and family support.
Defense attorneys for the three men argued that bond be set much lower, arguing that they are not at flight risk and that their families will help bring them to court for future hearings.
Koenig, Karol-Chik and Kwak each face 13 charges, which include one count of first-degree murder with extreme indifference, six counts of attempted first-degree murder, three counts of second-degree assault and three counts of attempted second-degree assault, court documents show. The extreme indifference charges allege the men knowingly created a “grave risk of death,” without caring who was injured or killed, resulting in Bartell’s death.
An attorney for Karol-Chik said Wednesday “potentially more serious charges” could be filed.
During interviews with police following their arrests, Karol-Chik and Kwak each accused the other of throwing the rock that killed Bartell. Koenig refused to be interviewed by police.
After the rock smashed through Bartell’s window and killed her, the men returned to the crash site to take a picture of the car to serve as a memento, they told investigators.
Police say the men hit six other cars and two other drivers were injured.
A preliminary hearing was rescheduled for Sept. 8.