Man guilty in Clear Creek County murder |

Man guilty in Clear Creek County murder

Nicole Formosa

CLEAR CREEK COUNTY – A Clear Creek County jury found Brent McKellip guilty of first degree murder on March 8 in the 2002 death of an Idaho Springs man.The 12-person jury also found McKellip, now 26, guilty of providing a handgun to a juvenile and first-degree aggravated motor vehicle theft.Evidence presented at the trial established that McKellip and his cousins- Zach McKellip and Justin Reents – decided to rob homes in Jefferson County, but that they needed to practice killing somebody first in case they ran across resistance in the robberies, according to a press release from the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.On Feb. 28, 2002, Brent McKellip lured Mark Francis, who was Zach McKellip’s best friend, up Virginia Canyon Road to see a truck that had been stolen earlier, prosecutors said.Reents, Zach McKellip and Troy Santarelli were in the car when Brent McKellip drove Francis to the top of the service road.While at the top of the road, Brent McKellip shot Francis four times with a 9-mm handgun. Reents and Zach McKellip were in the woods at the time of the shooting, and Santarelli was standing next to Francis. After the shooting, the four went back to the car, and Brent McKellip reloaded the handgun and shot Francis 15 more times, prosecutors said.Francis’ body was found 17 days later by a cell phone company service worker using the road to check on a cell tower. By that time, the body had been partially eaten by a mountain lion.On March 17, 2002, the four carried out their plan to rob someone in Jefferson County. After the home invasion, Zach McKellip and Santarelli were contacted by the police and the group was implicated in the robbery. It wasn’t until the end of 2002 that the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office tied the group to Francis’ murder, prosecutors said.Zach McKellip received six years in prison to be served concurrently with a 20-year sentence from Jefferson County for the robbery, according to 5th Judicial District Attorney Mark Hurlbert.The charges against Reents, who was 16 at the time of the murder, were dropped on the condition that he enter the youth offender system, Hurlbert said.Santarelli received 10 years from Jefferson County on top of one-and-a-half years in Clear Creek County.All three testified against Brent McKellip in the nine-day trial, Hurlbert said.Brent McKellip will be sentenced on April 11 at which time he faces a possible sentence of life in prison without parole.Vail, Colorado

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