Teen pleads guilty in murder of woman struck by rock through windshield

GOLDEN, Colo. — A second Colorado teen pleaded guilty Wednesday in the death of a woman killed last year when a rock was thrown through her windshield.

Nicholas James Karol-Chik, 19, of Arvada, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. He was one of three teens initially charged with first-degree murder in the April 2023 death of Alexa Bartell, 20, also of Arvada.

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Bartell was talking to a friend on the phone the night of April 19, 2023, when a landscaping rock crashed through her windshield as she drove, according to The Associated Press. The phone went dead, and Bartell’s vehicle ended up in a field near the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.

The friend grew worried and used a cellphone app to track Bartell’s phone. She found Bartell dead from a head wound caused by the rock.

Bartell’s killing brought to an end a two-month spate of crimes in which Karol-Chik and two friends allegedly threw rocks and other objects at vehicles, injuring several of the drivers.

A second defendant, Zachary Hiestand Kwak, 19, pleaded guilty last week to a reduced charge of first-degree assault in Bartell’s death, prosecutors said. Kwak also pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and attempt to commit assault for attacks on six other drivers the night that Bartell died.

In addition to the murder charge, Karol-Chik pleaded guilty to committing a crime of violence and the attempt to commit first-degree murder for nine victims attacked in the months leading up to Bartell’s murder.

The third defendant in the case, Joseph Koenig, also 19, is awaiting trial.

Prosecutors allege that Koenig is the person who threw the rock that killed Bartell. Karol-Chik admitted to handing him the rock.

Karol-Chik faces up to 72 years in prison when he is sentenced, while Kwak faces up to 32 years. They are slated to be sentenced after Koenig’s case is resolved.

Karol-Chik is expected to testify against Koenig, who still faces a first-degree murder charge in Bartell’s killing.

The Washington Post reported that Koenig’s trial is scheduled for July.

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