Carissa Koch
Carissa Koch

A woman pleaded guilty to tampering with physical evidence after a deadly argument at her Broomfield home has been sentenced to probation.

Carissa Koch, 25, in February had originally pleaded not guilty to the tampering charges and an additional charge of accessory to a crime, but she changed her plea to guilty as part of a deal to avoid jail time. The court dismissed the more serious accessory charge.

At a court appearance on Thursday, Koch was sentenced to three years probation and 100 hours of community service. Koch is the wife of Matthew P. Burnett, 32, who was last month was sentenced to 38 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to killing James Clifford Fernandez.

The body of Fernandez, 34, was found in a street in Westlake the morning of Aug. 17. He died, according to an arrest affidavit, after an argument with Burnett at the couple's home.

Burnett told police he dragged Fernandez into the street hoping a passerby would discover him. The argument apparently started because Burnett found Koch in a "compromising position" with Fernandez, according to the arrest affidavit.

Yet Koch's lawyer, Nancy Salimone, said there was no evidence that Koch and Fernandez were involved romantically, or that Koch saw any of the violent events that led up to Fernandez's death.

Koch has stated that she found Fernandez dead in the street, then started cleaning up blood stains in her home before police arrived.


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In an arrest affidavit, police stated Koch was "in the process of cleaning" several blood stains when officers arrived to interview the couple on Aug. 17. Koch told police she had been cleaning the stains, but believed they were vomit.

Police also observed a trail of blood stains just inside the front door of the home, on the front porch and on a driveway leading into the street where Fernandez was found, the arrest affidavit states.

Judge Francis Wasserman said Koch was not involved in Fernandez's murder, but her decision to clean up physical evidence should be punished.

Fernandez's murder "didn't happen at your hands ... but you need to understand, when you (clean up blood), you're either making a very stupid mistake or you're covering something up," he said.

At her sentencing on Thursday, Koch told the court she considered taking the matter to trial, but wanted to avoid causing Fernandez's family more pain by drawing the matter out in court.

Koch had been close with Fernandez's family, including his mother, who wore a bright pink shirt decorated with a picture of her son.

Fernandez was "the best friend anyone could have," because he took care of his friends and family, Koch said.

"I know the struggle I'm going through not having him around, and I can't imagine how everyone else must feel."

Contact Enterprise Staff Writer Megan Quinn at 303-410-2649 or quinnm@broomfieldenterprise.com