Joseph Saur will be going to prison for at least 16 years — possibly for as many as 48 — for fatally shooting Patience Stewart last year.
Saur, once charged with first-degree murder, on Monday pleaded guilty to an amended count of second-degree murder as a crime of domestic violence.
Sentencing provisions are open to the court on Feb. 11, 2019, if at that time the judge formally accepts the plea deal.
Stewart’s family did not address the court, but District Attorney Dan Hotsenpiller said after proceedings that they oppose the agreement, which was extended by Saur’s defense team.
“They have strongly voiced those opinions. We respect that. They would prefer that the only sentence available would be life in prison,” the DA said.
He discussed the offer with the family, as well as with investigators.
“Our job is to present the court with charges that accurately and adequately reflect what the defendant did and give the judge the appropriate range of sentencing in light of all the circumstances that we know,” Hotsenpiller said, pointing to factors such as Saur’s criminal history and age, as well as considerations for Stewart’s family.
“We think that the plea agreement in Mr. Saur’s case certainly reflects those goals,” the DA said.
“ …Our job is to consider many other factors beyond what the impact has been of the crime. Here, the impact has clearly been tremendous.”
Saur went to Stewart’s camper home in Olathe last Nov. 5, where he shot her multiple times before going to the Olathe Police Department and confessing.
According to court documents and prior testimony, Saur, then 19, had claimed he believed Stewart, 28, was actually his father, and that his father had a sex-reassignment surgery in order to avoid being investigated for “bad things.”
Saur’s father is alive and well. He has not been accused of the crimes his son alleged in initial police interviews.
On tapes played in court during a preliminary hearing earlier this year, Saur could be heard claiming self-defense and saying that Stewart was going for his gun.
However, investigators testified Stewart was found on her side in a loft bed, with her feet facing away from where Saur would have been and that both of her hands were occupied with other items.
A pathologist also testified that there was no evidence on Stewart’s body consistent with her having grabbed a gun.
Saur told police he had ditched his gun while en route to the station; the weapon was later recovered.
According to the second-degree murder as a crime of domestic violence charge as read in court Monday, Saur had once had an intimate relationship with Stewart.
Saur, who responded “pretty much none” when asked how much education he had, said the plea agreement had been explained to his satisfaction.
He answered “yes, ma’am,” when District Judge Keri Yoder asked if he understood that, if his plea is ultimately accepted after review of pre-sentence investigation reports, the minimum amount of prison time he would receive is 16 years under Colorado’s crime of violence statutes.
A four-hour sentencing hearing was set to begin at 1:30 p.m., Feb. 11, 2019.