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Second teen accused in Alexa Bartell’s rock-throwing death pleads guilty

Nicholas Karol-Chik is the second suspect to take plea deal in the case
Posted: 9:48 AM, May 15, 2024
Updated: 2024-05-16 13:36:41-04
alexa bartell.jpg

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — A second teen accused in a series of rock-throwing incidents in Jefferson County last year that led to a woman's death pleaded guilty in court Wednesday, just five days after one of the three suspects took a plea deal in the case.

Nicholas Karol-Chik, 19, was facing 15 charges in the killing of 20-year-old Alexa Bartell from Arvada, but pleaded guilty only to 3 added charges Wednesday: Second-degree murder — a Class 2 felony; attempted first-degree murder — a Class 2 felony; and a crime of violence sentence enhancer added to the second-degree murder charge. These charges were brought in connection with the series of rock-throwing incidents that happened between the hours of approximately 10 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. in Jefferson and Boulder counties on April 19, 2023, according to court records.

He now faces a maximum of 72 years in prison for taking the plea deal, according to a spokesperson with the First Judicial District Attorney's Office. The remaining charges will be dismissed.

Karol-Chik will be sentenced on September 10 at 1 p.m.

Bartell was discovered fatally-injured by a friend who went to check on her after she “abruptly stopped talking” on the phone, an arrest affidavit in the case states. Multiple agencies then responded to the scene, discovering the windshield of Bartell’s Chevrolet Spark had a large hole in the windshield on the driver’s side.

A preliminary investigation by the Colorado State Patrol determined the damage was not consistent with a vehicle crash and appeared to “be the result of an object penetrating the windshield and striking Alexa in the head,” according to the arrest affidavit.

Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies, who were also the scene, discovered a landscaping rock which had a red stain on it on the side of the road. That stain later tested presumptive positive for blood, arresting documents show.

Alexa Bartel car hit by rock

Several days after Bartell was killed, a Westminster Police Department investigator received a tip from a person who said a coworker discussed the rock-throwing incidents while they were both at work.

The tipster told investigators one his co-workers had seen several guys loading rocks into a vehicle from a Walmart parking lot hours before the crimes were reported, the affidavit states. That co-worker was later interviewed by police and told authorities he previously worked with one of the other two suspects, Joseph Koenig. Koenig's former co-worker told police Koenig called him on Snapchat the night of the rock-throwing incidents, asking if he wanted to hang out, to which the suspect agreed, according to the affidavit.

Koenig's co-worker said he drove around for a couple of hours until arriving in the parking lot of the Walmart near W. 72nd Avenue and Sheridan Blvd. Once inside, Koenig's co-worker said he returned to find Koenig, Karol-Chik and Zachary Kwak picking up the landscaping rocks and placing them into the truck, according to the investigation.

During the interview with police, the co-worker said he believed something bad was going to happen and he insisted the others take him home, which happened before the rock-throwing incidents.

Six days after Bartell's death, deputies obtained a search warrant and seized a 2016 model Chevrolet truck at Karol-Chik’s home, believed to be connected to the alleged rock-throwing incidents.

Karol-Chik was taken into custody on April 25 where he agreed to speak, according to the affidavit.

He told investigators he drove his truck to pick up the other two suspects and originally said it was just Kwak who collected and threw the rocks. But later in the interview, Karol-Chik changed his story to say both he and Kwak collected rocks and said all three threw them at moving cars, according to the affidavit.

At around the same time Karol-Chik was interviewed, Koenig and Kwak were taken into custody. While Koenig refused to talk, Kwak agreed to be interviewed.

Kwak admitted to stopping and collecting rocks and throwing them at cars and told police that when one of the rocks was thrown at Bartell’s car, “the impact made a very loud noise," according to arresting documents.

He then told police Bartell’s car went off the road after the rock was thrown, and when the trio turned their vehicle around, Kwak admitted to taking a cell phone picture of the scene, the affidavit read.

During a preliminary hearing in October of last year, the lead investigator in the case, Detective Dan Manka with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, revealed before the court that the day after the rock-throwing incidents, the three suspects met at a restaurant to solidify their stories in case they were confronted by authorities

Koenig is the only one still facing charges of first-degree murder after all three pleaded not guilty last month, along with attempted murder, second-degree assault and attempted second-degree assault charges. His bonds is set at $2 million cash-only.

"It's going to be a tough sailing for him"

Colorado legal experts said Wednesday that following Karol-Chik's and Kwak's plea deals, Koenig's attorneys will have a harder time convincing a jury of his innocence, should a trial take place, as the plea agreements will require both Karol-Chik and Kwak to testify truthfully.

"He's either going to be forced into a deal himself, if one is offered to him, or he's going to have to take trial and claim that the other two participants somehow are lying, and that the prosecution gave the deal to the wrong person, and that he is not guilty as a primary participant in this horrific killing," defense attorney Christopher Decker told Denver7. “It's going to be tough sailing for him.”

Stan Garnett, a former Boulder County District Attorney, told Denver7 the plea deal also offered both Karol-Chik's and Kwak the ability "to maximize the case against the one they think is the most responsible."

"The judge will listen to their testimony as well and he himself will decide, does he think they're genuine and trying to help the prosecution, trying to help the process? Or are they simply trying to minimize their own punishment?” Garnett said.

Koenig's trial is scheduled for July 19. If convicted, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Denver7's Sam Peña contributed to this report.

Second teen accused in Alexa Bartell’s rock-throwing death pleads guilty


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