Stathis Kirkpatrick, 20, was sentenced to life imprisonment Tuesday for the murder of 14-year-old Kailee Clapp of McCook. Kirkpatrick pleaded no contest to first degree murder in September 2012.
Kailee Clapp was reported missing on Jan. 21, 2011. Later that night, law enforcement discovered her burned body at the Bartley Cemetery.
At sentencing, Special Prosecutor Corey O'Brien offered the courtroom a glimpse into the horrors Kailee Clapp experienced.
"This was a horrific, senseless, crime by any measure. It was the ultimate act of selfishness," said O'Brien, before adding that he had seen many horrific crime scenes and acts against human beings, "this ranks right at the top."
O'Brien said Kailee Clapp was the beautiful girl next door who lost her life in an instant. "Lured from her room at 3 a.m. by someone she considered a friend."
O'Brien went on to say that Kirkpatrick attacked her in the alley behind her home and then took her battered body 20 miles to the Bartley Cemetery.
"While she was still breathing and alive he doused her in gasoline and set her ablaze, a fire so intense she had to be identified by dental records."
Sobbing broke out from several in the courtroom after O'Brien's account of the assault, at which time he reiterated that it was only a small portion of the facts in the case, saying there was more than what had been reported in the newspapers and even more than what had been presented to the court.
O'Brien said that untold hours were spent investigating rumors and allegations of another person being involved in the case and in the end it was clear that there was no one else to blame for the crime, other "than that man over there," indicating Kirkpatrick.
O'Brien said the family of Kailee Clapp had asked him to speak for them, relating the message that Tuesday was not just the day of Kirkpatrick's sentencing, not just a sad day for the community, family and friends of Kailee Clapp, but also a day that justice would be obtained and wounds that were fostered 22 months ago would begin to heal.
O'Brien said only a small portion of the evidence in the case was released and urged any court entities reviewing the case to look at the evidence, which he asked law enforcement to store indefinitely. O'Brien cited audio, video and photographic evidence in the case and said the prosecution had provided a very "sanitary version" of the facts.
O'Brien said the tragic death of Kailee Clapp had served some good and the McCook community was stronger for it. He praised the work of local law enforcement and investigators working the case, as well as the Clapp family's ability to follow his requests and direction during such a tragic and emotional time.
Kirkpatrick's defense attorneys followed O'Brien's emotional statement, saying they had no statement for the defense. When Kirkpatrick was asked by District Court Judge David Urbom if there was anything he would like to say, Kirkpatrick merely replied "No, there is not."
Urbom subsequently sentenced Kirkpatrick to the mandatory sentence of "not less than life imprisonment, nor more than life imprisonment, with the Nebraska Department of Corrections," on the charge of first-degree premeditated murder.
O'Brien said the Kirkpatrick case was unusual, in more ways than one. He pointed out that it was rare to have a plea agreement reached in a case that resulted in a mandatory life sentence, rare for the court to find itself in a unique position of passing judgment without a trial and rare to see a case involving such horrific acts.
According to Red Willow County Attorney Paul Wood, who assisted the Nebraska Attorney General's office in the case, Kirkpatrick is not eligible for parole and the only possibility he has of getting out would be if the Nebraska Board of Pardons commuted his life sentence to a term of years.
Attorney General Jon Bruning said it was a just sentence.
“Mr. Kirkpatrick lured Kailee from her home, murdered her and burned her body,” Bruning said. “He deserves to spend the rest of his life behind bars for this horrifying crime.”
Four law enforcement agencies investigated the crime, including the McCook Police Department, the Red Willow County Sheriff's Office, the Nebraska State Patrol and the FBI Evidence Recovery Team, Bruning said.
Assistant Nebraska Attorneys General Corey O’Brien and Sandra Allen prosecuted the case in cooperation with Red Willow County Attorney Paul Wood.