It’s still not clear which of the three men charged in a fatal Denver-area rock-throwing spree last spring is responsible for hurling the objects in each incident, but prosecutors argued in court Wednesday that all three were complicit in Alexa Bartell’s murder and the attempted murder of six other drivers.
Defense attorneys for Joseph Koenig, 19, Nicholas “Mitch” Karol-Chik, 18, and Zachary Kwak, 18, challenged prosecutors’ evidence during a preliminary hearing Wednesday, but First Judicial District Judge Christopher Zenisek ruled the prosecution had enough evidence to proceed to trial on all counts.
Prosecutors said the three young men each were complicit because there was “excitement” in the truck as they drove around the night of April 19 and the teens cheered after the rock hit Bartell’s vehicle, Jefferson County sheriff’s Detective Dan Manka testified, referencing investigators’ interview with Karol-Chik.
The three suspects are facing first-degree murder charges in Jefferson County in connection with the death of 20-year-old Bartell, who was killed when police say the trio threw a rock into her windshield as their vehicle passed hers on Indiana Street near the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.
The three also were charged with carrying out a spree of at least six other rock-throwing incidents in the area that night. Koenig and Karol-Chik also are each facing two newer counts of attempted first-degree murder and attempted assault in connection with a much earlier attack, on April 1, in Arvada.
No DNA of any of the three suspects was found on the rocks thrown, there is no concrete evidence of who threw which rocks and how fast each vehicle hit was moving, and there were other tips of other teenage boys throwing rocks at vehicles in the area that night, Manka said –evidence the teens’ defense attorneys seized on to challenge probable cause.
Karol-Chik and Kwak’s attorneys argued the prosecution theory that they were all complicit in Bartell’s death assumes they knew what they were going to be doing that night and they participated knowing they were setting out to injure or kill people.
Both Karol-Chik and Kwak gave interviews to investigators and described the fatal attack. Karol-Chik said Kwak threw the fatal rock; Kwak said it was thrown by Koenig, Manka said during the hearing.
Kwak also said he never threw any rocks and only gave rocks to Karol-Chik and Koenig, who were in the front seats of Karol-Chik’s truck.
Kwak did say in the interview he wanted to go back and he took a photo of Bartell’s vehicle “for memory’s sake,” Manka said.
Additionally, prosecutors pointed to Manka’s testimony that Kwak said the three men met at a restaurant the next day to come up with a story in case they were confronted as evidence of their indifference.