Eureka boy admitted today to stabbing 16-year-old Brandon Brocious to
death at Oceanview Cemetery in August 2018.
Christopher Craft Sterling, 16, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter with use of a knife. Although the maximum sentence for his crimes is 12 years, under state law he can be held in a Department of Juvenile Justice facility only until his 25th birthday in August 2027.
Craft Sterling was just 11 days shy of 16 when he stabbed Brocious, who died from one knife wound to the chest. Had Craft Sterling been 16, the District Attorney’s Office could have sought to have him tried as an adult.
Brocious’ father, Chip Brocious, said outside court that he was at least gratified to hear his son’s killer acknowledge his guilt.
“There’s something to be said for hearing him admit he did it,” the father said. “You know, I guess that’s something. He said in front of God and the judge and everyone that he did it. Now it’s up to the justice system to try to turn that into some justice.”
Craft Sterling will be eligible for parole after serving four years. He will be sentenced Aug. 15 by Judge Christopher Wilson, who accepted his plea this afternoon.
Both Craft Sterling and his mother, Lorna Jean Leen, were arrested on a murder charge the day of the killing. Leen’s charges were dismissed after her preliminary hearing, with Judge Gregory Elvine Kreis saying he doubted the prime witness, Brocious’ girlfriend “Jane Doe,” could have seen the stabbing. Eureka police officers testified the cemetery was pitch dark, and the stabbing occurred up to 90 feet from where Doe and Leen were standing. Doe claimed Leen held her back while Brocious was being stabbed.
Doe would have been the main witness in Craft Sterling’s juvenile trial, no doubt with the visibility problem being presented again.
Leen was at the hearing today and left the courtroom yelling as Wilson advised her son of the rights he was giving up by admitting the crimes.
“I wouldn’t do it Chris!” Leen hollered. “I wouldn’t do it!”
At the time of the killing Leen was camping in the woods bordering the cemetery. Jane Doe had broken up with Craft Sterling and immediately begun a relationship with Brocious. The trouble started that day when Craft Sterling stole Doe’s cellphone as she and Brocious slept, and the quarrel escalated throughout the day. All the teens involved were using drugs.
Brocious’ family believes he met Leen and Craft Sterling while he was delivering home-baked bread to the homeless.
In a short but heated exchange before the hearing began, Leen advised Chip Brocious to “look at the one who caused it.”
She was referring to Jane Doe, who was sitting in the courthouse hallway with a friend.
A woman with Leen told Chip Brocious the killing was “a tragedy.”
“It’s not a tragedy,” he responded. “It’s murder.”
In exchange for Craft Sterling’s admission, Deputy District Attorney Jessica Watson said her office was dismissing several other charges. Some, including auto theft, vandalism and possession of stolen property, were unrelated to the killing.
Private attorney Christina Allbright was appointed to represent Craft Sterling.
- Coroner’s Office Identifies 16-Year-Old Eureka Teen Stabbed to Death in Ocean View Cemetery
- Eureka Mother, Son Plead Not Guilty to Murder of Teenager at Ocean View Cemetery Last Week
- Woman Accused in Murder of Eureka Teenager Assigned Public Defender; Next Hearing Set for September
- As Defense Attorney Pleads for More Time, Family of Slain Teen Flood Courtroom in ‘Justice for Brandon’ Shirts
- OBITUARY: Brandon J. Brocious
- Slain Eureka Teen Remembered by Stepfather as Suspects’ Hearings Proceed
- Child Suspect in Murder at Eureka Cemetery Cannot Be Tried as an Adult, Due to Legislation Just Signed by Gov. Brown
- Cemetery Murder Hearing Postponed Due to Dispute Over Teenage Eyewitness’ Testimony
- Eureka Man Accused of Rape, Human Trafficking of a Minor Appears in Court; Preliminary Hearing in the Case Set for Day After Christmas
- TODAY in COURT: Suspect in Arcata Plaza Stabbing Gets New Lawyer; Hearing Postponed for Woman Accused of Murdering Teen in Eureka Cemetery
- Prosecutor Requests Disqualification of Judge in Eureka Teen Murder Case
- In Eureka Teen Murder Case, District Attorney Keeps Asking For Judges to Be Disqualified
- Witness to Slaying of Eureka Teen Tells Court That the Victim Was Her Boyfriend, the Accused Killer Her Ex
- Witness to Killing of Eureka Teen Tells Judge That Suspect’s Mom Held Her Back While Her Son Stabbed Victim
- Fight Over Phone, Backpack Led to Fatal Stabbing in Cemetery, Witness Testifies; Judge to Rule on Murder Charges Today
- LEEN HEARING: Judge Declines to Hold Eureka Woman to Answer for Murder in Stabbing Death of Teenager; Case Against Leen’s Son Moves Forward in Juvenile Court
- Trial of 15-Year-Old Accused of Murdering Eureka Kid at Cemetery Will be Delayed; Defense Attorney Needs Time to Complete Investigation