Jason Peder Clausen, 22, pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of college student Lacy Jo Miller before a packed courtroom Thursday.
Accepting his guilty plea, Larimer County District Judge James H. Hiatt sentenced Clausen to life in prison without parole. Reaching a plea bargain, both the prosecution and defense agreed to waive the possibility of the death penalty in exchange for a guilty plea.
Twenty-year-old Miller was last seen at 1:30 a.m. Jan. 18 after dropping a friend off at her apartment in Rams Village. Miller was reported missing when she didn’t return to her parents’ home by 6:30 a.m. the following morning. Her car was found parked and locked near her parents’ home. Clausen was arrested Jan. 22 in connection with her disappearance. Miller’s body was found in northern Fort Collins on Jan. 25.
In an emotional declaration before the court, David Miller, Lacy?s father, thanked police, investigators and the community for their contribution and support. He then contrasted his daughter?s life with the life of her killer.
Lacy?s path was one of light and hope; her killer?s was one of darkness and hopelessness, he said. Unfortunately, their paths crossed.
D. Miller said the killer was doing drugs and looking at pornography prior to Lacy?s murder. He said the killer was an example of everything evil and vile.
Backed by evidence found in police reports, Lacy?s father explained how the killer had forced sleeping pills down her throat, struck her over the head, took pictures of her and then poured gas on her body in a final attempt to destroy the evidence. With her face and hair intact, he declared that his daughter was as beautiful in death as in life.
“In Lacy?s memory, my family and I pledge to live strong, productive lives,” David Miller said.
A UNC scholarship bearing Lacy Miller?s name will be put into place in remembrance of the legacy she left.
“Lacy, we love you and will see you in heaven someday,” David Miller said.
Andy Gavaldon, Clausen?s attorney, made a statement on behalf of the family, saying they will continue to love their son and brother unconditionally. The family believes in justice and believe it has now been served, he said.
With the closure of the case, Gavaldon said he would seal his lips and that because Clausen had taken responsibility for it “enough is enough.”
When the court recessed, Wendy Cohen, Lacy?s mother, made her way through the crowd and embraced Clausen?s mother.
Cohen said she was relieved, and was going to miss her daughter. She said she told Clausen?s mother that she was sorry and that she loved them.
Chief deputy Cliff Riedel said the murder was sexually motivated, though there is no conclusive evidence Lacy was sexually assaulted.
A police report said the killer revealed the body to someone prior to disposing of it, thus leading to Clausen?s arrest.
Riedel said they had a very strong case for his guilt and that investigators did a fabulous job.
“If there had to be a crime investigated, I?d take the Fort Collins police over the Philadelphia police department any day,” he said, referring to the case of Troy Graves, who was found guilty of more than a dozen sexual assaults in Fort Collins and Philadelphia. He was arrested in Fort Collins in the spring of 2002.
Riedel confirmed that Lacy?s killer did in fact impersonate an officer at the time of the abduction and that the body was dumped at Stove Prairie.
One of Lacy?s best friends, Amanda Huddleston, said she was relieved that it was finally over.
“Now we can keep the happy part of Lacy alive,” she said. “We can put the bad parts behind us.”