A Lafayette teen who admitted to police that he stabbed his girlfriend's mother to death is discussing a plea deal with Boulder County prosecutors that would spare him a lifetime prison sentence.
Bryan Grove, 18, had been scheduled to enter a not-guilty plea Friday to first-degree murder in connection with the February slaying of Lafayette resident Linda Damm, 52.
Instead, Grove's attorneys asked for more time to talk with prosecutors, who agreed that a delay would be appropriate.
Tess Damm, the victim's 16-year-old daughter, also is charged with first-degree murder and is accused of plotting with Grove to kill her mother. She pleaded not guilty during Friday's brief hearing. Her case was set for trial Feb. 18.
After the hearing, Linda Damm's brother, John Schueller, and his partner, Dennis Comeau, met with prosecutors and emerged from the Boulder County Justice Center with puzzled looks on their faces.
Comeau said they were letting the possibility of a second-degree murder conviction for Grove "soak in" before forming an opinion. He said that prosecutors talked about Grove's age at the time of the crime as a factor for the possible deal.
"We're confused," Comeau said.
Grove's father, Kenneth Grove, said a deal was a possibility, but since his son is now an adult, he is not privy to his discussions with public defenders.
Two other co-defendants already have accepted plea deals in exchange for their testimony against Damm and Grove.
Damm's attorney, Beth Kelley, said that she has not received any offer from the district attorney's office, and that Friday's events in court had her "a little concerned."
Public defender Seth Temin, in asking that Grove's hearing be delayed until Oct. 16, told the court that he was in discussions with prosecutors.
"We're waiting for them to do certain things they need to do to continue those discussions," Temin said. "It doesn't make sense to set the case for trial at this moment."
Deputy District Attorney Adrian Vannice agreed.
"It's appropriate to reset this for a few weeks," she told the court.
Prosecutor Karen Peters told the court that the Colorado Bureau of Investigation had concluded its DNA testing in the case, but agents still are waiting on fingerprint analysis.
Grove and Damm are charged as adults and would face life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder. Second-degree murder carries a sentencing range of 16 to 48 years in prison.
Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy said she wouldn't discuss any plea negotiations in an open case.
Karen Steinhauser, adjunct professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and former Denver prosecutor, said homicides that involve a person acting at the request of another oftentimes require prosecutors to "make a deal with the devil."
"The best line we used with jurors is 'Crimes committed in Hell don't have angels as witnesses,'" Steinhauser said. "It comes down to making choices of who do we want to get for first-degree murder and what do we want to do to get that conviction."
Police found Linda Damm's decaying body in the back of a Subaru in the garage of her Lafayette home on Feb. 28 after receiving an anonymous tip. The body had been left there for several weeks after Grove stabbed the woman to death in her bedroom, police allege.
Tess Damm told authorities that her mother was an abusive alcoholic, and her boyfriend Grove - who had moved into the home at 705 W. Brome Place - said he would take care of the problem, according to police reports.
A friend of the teens, Jared Smith, 17, pleaded guilty to a juvenile charge of accessory and is serving a two-year sentence in juvenile prison for helping move Damm's body from her bedroom to the car. He told police that the couple discussed the homicide during a late-night meal at IHOP.
Smith told investigators he and Damm then dropped Grove off at the home and drove around while the slaying took place.
Another friend, Jared Guy, 19, was sentenced last week to work release followed by electronic home monitoring and probation after pleading guilty to tampering for helping try to dispose of Damm's body at a dump and a cemetery.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Christine Reid at 303-473-1355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Damm homicide suspects
Tess Damm, 16
Daughter of victim, Linda Damm
Accused of plotting to kill her mother
Charged as adult with first-degree murder
Pleaded not guilty on Friday, trial set for Feb. 18
Bryan Grove, 18
Tess Damm's live-in boyfriend
Accused of stabbing Linda Damm to death
Charged as adult with first-degree murder
Plea hearing on Friday delayed to Oct. 16, in talks for possible plea deal
Jared Smith, 17
Accused of being with Grove and Tess Damm while they plotted to kill Linda Damm
Pleaded guilty to juvenile charge of accessory
Serving two-year sentence in juvenile prison
Jared Guy, 19
Accused of helping Grove try to dump Linda Damm's body
Pleaded guilty to felony tampering
Sentenced to work release, electronic home monitoring and probation
Source: Boulder County court records, Camera archives