Teen Who Hid Double-Murder Suspect Sentenced

By  | 

Some justice for the families of a slain Fort Carson soldier and his wife after a teen was sentenced Tuesday for hiding the murder suspect.

Jerel Couch, 19, was sentenced to three years in the Department of Corrections Youthful Offender System (YOS). He will credit for 229 days served, and will also be eligible to spend the last six to 12 months of his sentence on parole/probation. This potentially puts him back on the streets by the end of next year.

Couch was not directly involved in the murders of Staff Sgt. David Dunlap and Whitney Butler, who were killed on January 14 when they returned home in the middle of a burglary. He's accused of hiding the murder suspect, 17-year-old Macyo January afterward. He pleaded guilty in July to charges of accessory to a crime.

Whitney’s brother, Christian Butler talked to 11 News after a sentencing hearing for Jerel Couch.

"For our family, I think it's the best we could hope for...I mean, sending a 19-year-old kid to prison doesn't seem like a benefit to him or to society," Butler said.

While not involved in the murders, Couch was "knowingly putting the community and himself in jeopardy" by hiding January, the judge said Tuesday after handing down Couch's sentence.

Couch told the victims' families Tuesday that he "doesn't ever expect the families to forgive [him], but wants to apologize."

Couch’s parents, sister and a family friend also apologized to the victims' families in court Tuesday.

"Some days are easier than others," Butler said. "When we approach days like today where we really have to face the hideous nature of what occurred, it's a more difficult day than the other days where we try to go on with life as normal."

January, the accused killer, will be tried as an adult. He will be in court later this month for his preliminary hearing.

"We're all just kind of waiting. It's a long process, it's not one that we know much about or ever planned to go through, so we're all just kind of taking it as it comes," Butler said.

Butler went up to Couch's family afterward and told them that he was also sorry for the situation. He expressed hope that Couch would learn from it, and use his time in YOS to better himself and get his life on track.

Other family members of the victims expressed similar sentiments in court Tuesday.