A teenage boy from West Valley City, Utah pleaded guilty on Monday to raping and murdering his 12-year-old neighbor in 2015, when he was just 15, reported The Salt Lake Tribune. Jayden Sterzer, now 18, killed Kailey Vijil after asking for her help to find a lost cat.
Just hours after he sought the young girl's help, her naked body was discovered in a nearby pasture. Her Batman pajamas were near her body, and a tank top had been wrapped around her neck, according to Deseret News. She was strangled to death and sexually assaulted, a medical examiner confirmed, according to KTLA. DNA allegedly belonging to Sterzer was found on Vijil’s body, the Fresno Bee reported.
Sterzer pleaded guilty to the rape and murder of his former neighbor in exchange for staying in a juvenile detention center until he turns 21 and lessening his conviction from aggravated murder to murder. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, after he turns 21, he will be sentenced in adult court to "a mandatory prison term of at least 15 years."
“Intellectually he operates at the level of about a third grader. It was just very important to try and do what we could to keep him in the juvenile system for the next three years because we just don’t think he was in any way, shape or form prepared for a lengthy stint at the Utah state prison,” Michael Sikora, a lawyer for Sterzer, said.
Sterzer faces a sentencing hearing in January.