Moab • A juvenile court judge has ordered that a Moab teenager be confined in a secure juvenile detention facility for his role in helping cover up the March 25 murder of a 33-year-old Moab man.
Seventh District Juvenile Judge Mary Manley sentenced Charles Anthony Nelson, 17, during a hearing on Monday.
Nelson could be held in juvenile detention until he is 21 for helping his friend, Brody Blu Kruckenberg, also 17, dispose of the body of Gregorio Salazar Campos, who was the boyfriend of Kruckenberg's mother.
Campos' sister had reported her brother missing on March 29. Campos' body was found near an old bridge abutment in the Colorado River just north of Moab on April 7 after someone came forward and told police that Nelson had said he killed someone and provided information that led to the body as well as implicating Nelson and Kruckenberg in the crime.
A probable cause statement filed with 7th District Court indicated Nelson was the shooter and that Kruckenberg had asked him for help killing Campos. The two teens, then age 16, were charged as adults with first-degree felony murder and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony.
Investigators later determined that, based on Nelson's phone records and other evidence concerning the timeline of the shooting, Nelson was not present at the time Campos was killed. Kruckenberg later told investigators that he shot Campos, Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald said in July.
On July 22, the cases against both teens were dismissed in adult court and moved to juvenile court. Kruckenberg admitted during a juvenile court hearing that he alone shot Campos while the man was sleeping in the mobile home where Kruckenberg lived with his mother on Riversands Road in Moab. Kruckenberg pleaded guilty to manslaughter and obstruction of justice, both second-degree felonies and Manley sentenced him to confinement in a juvenile detention center until he is 21 years old.
Nelson also entered a guilty plea to the second-degree felony obstruction charge on July 22 in Moab's 7th District Juvenile Court. At that time, Judge Manley ordered that Nelson undergo the psychological and behavioral assessment prior to sentencing.
Although the assessment report from juvenile justice system psychologists and staff recommended that Nelson be placed in a proctor home a non-secure home for delinquent youth and the prosecuting and defense attorneys said Monday in court that they supported that recommendation, Manley opted for the harsher sentence, saying she found many aspects of the case "troubling."
Nelson's attorney, Don Torgerson, took issue with some aspects of the assessment report, particularly with regard to whether Nelson has shown remorse for his involvement in helping dispose of Campos' body.
"Mr. Nelson certainly regrets his involvement in this crime and has stated his involvement," Torgerson said. " ... He does regret this for the victim and the victims's family."
Torgerson told the judge that sending Nelson to a proctor home could provide him with opportunities to correct "thinking errors," including substance abuse and other behaviors that contributed to Nelson's involvement in the cover-up. He said placement in a proctor home would offer Nelson "socialization options" that juvenile detention does not.
"Mr. Nelson is absolutely culpable for destroying evidence that is, hiding the body," Torgerson said. "[He] was not involved in the killing of Mr. Campos. Brody was. Rather than electing to take a life, Mr. Nelson was a participant in the cover up. The life had already been taken."
Juvenile probation officer Christopher Blackmon told the judge that he believed juvenile detention was the appropriate sentence for Nelson, based on the charges and circumstances of the crime.
"I have had some struggles as to what to recommend here," Blackmon said. "It was shocking that two youths and other adults of this crime could hold such callous attitudes."
Blackmon stressed that Nelson needs to receive counseling during his incarceration to help him "make better choices and be a contributing member of this community."
Fitzgerald said Nelson had "issues of self-esteem" and other problems that may have contributed to his involvement. Fitzgerald suggested placing Nelson in a proctor home as a first choice so Nelson could receive substantial counseling and treatment while learning from positive role models.
"It's disappointing because I think he has a mother that really cares about him and is a positive influence," Fitzgerald said. "But other people he was around really had a strong influence because of his need to fit in and his psychological issues."
Fitzgerald said he is concerned that in juvenile detention "the influence ... from peers is generally very negative."