18-year-old sentenced in death of girl lured from home
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The family of a 12-year-old girl lured from her suburban Salt Lake City home and killed by a teenage neighbor spoke in a courtroom for the first time Friday as he was sentenced for the crime.
Her father said he’s struggled to work, eat and sleep in the two years since his daughter Kailey Vijil was found strangled in a horse pasture and a boy who lived nearby was arrested.
“I didn’t know evil could be so young,” Orlando Vijil said. “Evil came knocking on my door that night.”
Jayden Matthew Sterzer, who was 15 when the crime occurred in 2015, walked his neighborhood for days, telling girls he was looking for a lost cat, prosecutor Coral Sanchez-Rose said. He knocked on Vijil’s door, and when she agreed to help, he took her directly to the field where she was killed, she said.
Sterzer found a victim who was cared deeply for animals, her family said. Vijil took in stray cats and cried when creatures were hurt in movies. She also protected bullied kids, loved comic books and was in touch with her family’s Native American culture.
“Kailey never imagined that because of her personality, because of her character to help she would pay such a high price,” Sanchez-Rose said. The crime terrified the entire neighborhood, she said. “No parent feels safe anymore.”
Sterzer pleaded guilty to rape and murder charges after receiving court-ordered treatment for unspecified mental disorders and intellectual disabilities. He was ordered Friday to a secure juvenile facility, where he’ll serve time until he turns 21. His plea agreement with prosecutors calls for him to then be sentenced to adult prison.
Now 18, Sterzer didn’t speak at the sentencing but apologized to the family in a letter read by his attorney, saying he thinks about the pain he caused every day and wishes he could go back in time and undo it.
The Associated Press typically does not name juveniles who are accused of crimes, but Sterzer’s plea deal considered him an adult.