Update: Victim’s family responds to guilty plea in fatal Eureka cemetery stabbing

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UPDATE: A Eureka teenager accused of fatally stabbing another teenager during an altercation in a Eureka cemetery in August 2018 has agreed to a plea agreement with the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office.

Christopher Craft-Sterling, now 16 years old, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter today in the stabbing death of 16-year-old Brandon Brocious at the Ocean View Cemetery in Eureka on Aug. 9, 2018.

Craft-Sterling, who was 11 days shy of his 16th birthday at the time of the stabbing and therefore too young to be tried as an adult in California, also agreed to a special allegation that he personally used a knife in the act that added a year to his sentence and he accepted a deal that comes with 12 years of confinement in the state Juvenile Justice system.

The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Jessica Watkins, dropped an additional eight charges levied against Craft-Sterling including vandalism, receiving stolen property and vehicle theft with five of those charges dismissed with a Harvey waiver which means the presiding judge can still consider those charges when the sentence is imposed.

“You’re going to to be admitting to voluntary manslaughter and acknowledge the special allegation of the use of a knife, do you understand that?” Asked Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Christopher Wilson to Craft-Sterling.

“Yes, sir, I understand that,” replied Craft-Sterling.

At that point in the hearing, there was an interruption from the gallery when Craft-Sterling’s mother, Lorna Leen, who was also charged with homicide in connection with Brocious’s death but not held to answer following a preliminary hearing, yelled out “I wouldn’t do that, Chris,” and immediately fled the courtroom.

Wilson continued to explain to Craft-Sterling what he was agreeing to by entering the agreement with the DA including that his plea deal will mean he now has one strike offense on his record that can be considered in any future violent criminal proceedings.

“On or about Aug. 9, 2018 you did willfully and willingly without malice kill a human being, do you admit?” Wilson asked Craft-Sterling who responded, “Yes, sir.”

Craft-Sterling was seated at the defense table next to his defense attorney Christina Allbright, who took the time to explain the proceedings as the hearing went along. At one point Wilson asked Watkins to read the complaint and the cause of death, which she did.

“The stab wound to his chest caused Brandon (Brocious’) death,” Watkins said as Wilson asked Craft-Sterling if he had entered the plea freely and voluntarily and without duress to which he replied, “Yes, sir.”

Among those in attendance at the hearing were family members of Brocious including his father, Chip Brocious, his mother Cyanne, as well as other family and friends.

Chip Brocious, who exchanged heated words with Leen before the hearing began, was lukewarm in response to the result of the proceedings.

“There is something to be said for hearing him admit he did it,” Chip Brocious said following the hearing. “He said he did it in front of God, the judge and now it’s up to the justice system to do some justice. I have learned to temper my hopes from getting really high. This (plea) wasn’t the worst-case thing, it’s kind of in the middle so that’s like a win.”

Chip Brocious also said that it will be a relief not to keep coming to court for hearings and said the result of the plea agreement brought “a sense of closure, sort of,” adding that he and the others present wouldn’t really begin to process the fallout of his son’s death and the sentencing of his killer until after the sentencing hearing.

When Craft-Sterling appears in court for sentencing, the judge will impose the 12-year sentence and Craft-Sterling will be eligible for parole after having served four years. Craft-Sterling will remain in the custody of Juvenile Justice until he is 25 and if released on parole before that will remain under juvenile supervision.

PREVIOUS REPORT: Sixteen-year-old Eurekan Christopher Craft-Sterling pleaded guilty today at the Humboldt County courthouse to voluntary manslaughter in the fatal stabbing of 16-year-old Brandon Brocious.

The killing took place during a physical altercation at the Ocean View Cemetery in Eureka on Aug. 9, 2018.

Craft-Sterling will be sentenced Aug. 15 to 12 years, and will remain in custody of juvenile justice until he’s 25 years old.

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