Colorado teen faces up to 32 years in jail after pleading guilty to rock-throwing incident that left woman dead

One of three young, “sadistic” Colorado suspects involved in a rock-throwing incident that left a woman dead pleaded guilty on Friday.

“Zachary Kwak, 19, appeared in Jefferson County District Court where he pleaded guilty to first-degree assault, second-degree assault, and attempted second-degree assault,” according to Denver station KUSA. “Thirteen counts were dismissed and Kwak’s bond was revoked.”

“As part of the plea agreement, he faces between 20 and 32 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections. Another condition of the deal forbids Kwak from being sentenced as a youthful offender,” according to the station.

“As part of today’s plea, Kwak agreed that with regard to the death of Bartell, the defendant acted knowingly, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, by engaging in conduct which created a grave risk of death,” the Colorado First Judicial District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

Kwak, along with young suspects Joseph Koenig and Nicholas Karol-Chik, were each charged with first-degree murder during their senior year in high school after they effectively killed Alexa Bartell, 20, by hurling a large landscaping rock through her windshield.

Bartell was on the phone while driving home from work on the night of April 19th, 2023, when the line went silent. The friend she’d been on the phone with subsequently tracked down her phone and found her lying dead inside her car, which had steered off the roadway and into a field.

Besides throwing the rock that killed Bartell, the three punks also later returned to the scene of the crime to snap “sadistic” photos of Bartell’s damaged vehicle.

“When Kwak was questioned, he allegedly said he took a photo of Bartell’s car because he ‘thought Joseph or Mitch would want it as a memento,’ according to court documents,” ABC News notes.

The three also threw rocks through other people’s vehicles, ultimately injuring three people.

A man who witnessed one of the rock-throwing incidents (not the one involving Bartell) reported witnessing at least two people in another vehicle when suddenly he saw a rock “come from the middle of that vehicle” and through his windshield.

“It hit the man in the shoulder and landed in his front seat, an arrest affidavit from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office says,” according to KUSA. “The man reported that he believed the rock might have come from a sunroof area and described it being tossed in an ‘overhand throwing motion.'”

All three were arrested roughly a week after Bartell’s tragic death. The authorities found the suspects by checking cellphone data.

“According to prior court testimony, investigators pulled cellphone data for devices that pinged in the areas of the incidents. One phone number pinged at four of the locations and it belonged to Koenig,” KUSA notes.

Kwak is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept 3rd, while Karol-Chik is scheduled to go on trial in early June and Koenig is scheduled to go on trial in July or August.

Speaking with Denver station KDVR after Bartell’s death last year, her former high school classmate Emily Audette said she was still in shock.


“It just doesn’t feel real,” Audette said. “She was always just someone you could go to about anything, someone you could always talk to. She was just friends with everybody and made everybody laugh.”

“She really left a mark on a lot of people, and I hope that inspires people moving forward to be more like she was,” the former high school classmate added.

According to Audette, while the two lost touch after high school, she still vividly recalls Bartell’s personality.

“She was always super nice, super sweet, high energy,” she said. “Always smiling. I mean, I used to see her every day at school, and I don’t ever remember seeing her sad or being negative about anything. She just uplifted people all the time.”

Audette added that Bartell was loved by many people, including her longtime girlfriend.

“She had a girlfriend that they seemed so in love, and it just makes me so sad for her, because I looked at her social media not that long ago and her whole feed was her girlfriend,” she said. “She was just such a loving person, I guess it makes me happy that she passed happy.”

Vivek Saxena


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