SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) -A West Valley City teenager pleaded guilty to sexually abusing and murdering 12 year old Kailey Vijil nearly two and a half years ago.
Jayden Matthew Sterzer was 15 in July of 2015 when police say he lured Kailey out of her home on the premise of finding his lost cat, then raped her and strangled her to death in a nearby field. On Monday he pleaded to charges of murder and sexual abuse of a child.
“Are you pleading guilty to that count because you in fact are guilty of that count?” 3rd District Judge Paul Parker asked.
“Yes,” Sterzer replied.
Defense attorneys claim Strerzer has a low IQ and cognitive impairments because of fetal alcohol syndrome and they took the plea deal to keep him in juvenile custody until the age of 21.
“Intellectually he operates at about the level of third grader,” attorney Michael Sikora told reporters. “It was just very, very important to try and do what we could to keep him in the juvenile system for the next 3 years because we just don’t think in any way, shape or form he’s prepared for a lengthy stay at the Utah State Prison.”
Kailey’s family did not speak Monday but her father Orlando Vijil did comment after Sterzer was found competent to stand trial last month.
“A hell on earth for me I guess because they live down the block from me and I can’t go down the other street because that’s where she passed away at,” Mr. Vijil said. “If you ever lost a child you would know.”
Vijil family attorney Spencer Banks was asked how difficult it was for the family to see Mr. Sterzer during these proceedings.
“Umm it was difficult but I think it was also good for them to hear him admit finally after all of these years what he had done,” Banks said. “But anytime they had to be in court, seeing him, seeing his family there in support of him is always extremely difficult for them.”
Sterzer will remain in juvenile custody for three more years, then he’ll be sentenced in adult court when he turns 21. He faces 16 years to life in prison.