10 year-old Kiaya Campbell (pictured left) was brutally murdered by 15 year-old Aidan Zellmer (pictured right) on June 7th, 2017. The two lived in Thornton, Colorado, and they became acquainted after Kiaya’s father began a relationship with Aidan’s mother. On the evening of the murder, Kiaya and Aidan left Kiaya’s father’s home together to walk to the store. Aidan returned alone a few hours later. He told his mother and Kiaya’s father that he ran and became separated from Kiaya during a rainstorm. Shortly before midnight, Kiaya’s father called the police to report his daughter missing.
Throughout the night, police conducted a wide search that included nearby bodies of water. By 1:30pm that afternoon, an AMBER Alert was issued. However, it was cancelled by 5:30pm, after a resident of the neighborhood found a body in a nearby drainage ditch. The following day, the coroner confirmed the body was that of Kiaya Campbell. The coroner also announced that her death was “other than accidental.” Later that evening, authorities officially announced that Kiaya’s death was a homicide. She had been brutally beaten to death.
The following evening, Aidan was taken into custody. The police announced to the public that they had a minor in custody for Kiaya’s murder. Aidan’s name was not initially released to the public, however many people were already aware of his identity. By June 14th, Aidan was charged with first-degree murder charges in juvenile court. The same day, the prosecution announced that they were going to aim to have the charges moved to adult status. Seven months later, on January 23rd, 2018, Aidan’s was officially charged as an adult. Up until this point, Aidan had only been charged with Kiaya’s murder, but now he was being charged with sexually assaulting her as well. Specifically, Aidan was indicted on charges of first-degree murder after deliberation, first-degree murder by a person in a position of trust, two counts of felony murder, one count of sexual assault on a child and two counts of felony sexual assault.
Over a year later, on February 1st, 2019, Aidan accepted a plea deal. He ultimately pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of Kiaya. In exchange for the guilty plea, the other murder charges and the sexual assault charges were dropped. On March 11th, 2019, Aiden was sentenced to life in prison. At the sentencing, it was revealed that on the night of the murder, Aidan hit Kiaya in the head with a metal pipe five times before dragging her into a ditch and leaving her there to die. Her body was found naked from the waist down in a drainage ditch the next day. An autopsy confirmed that Kiaya died from blunt-force trauma.
Aidan will be eligible for parole after 40 years.