A man accused of killing a woman who disappeared after leaving a Denver nightclub in March was sentenced to life in prison Monday after pleading guilty to first-degree murder, saying he "didn't mean to do it."
Travis Forbes, 31, entered his plea in the death of Kenia Monge, 19, at a usually routine first hearing where defendants are advised of the pending charges.
"It was a mistake," a sobbing Forbes said shortly before being sentenced by District Court Judge Shelley Gilman. "I didn't plan it. I took a life.
"For the people that knew me, I have to say, remember me please. Remember me as I was, not the monster I became. I'm sorry."
The 4-foot-11 inch, 115-pound Monge disappeared March 31 from the 24K Lounge in lower downtown Denver, leaving her purse and cellphone at the club.
Monge's remains were found in what family members describe as a shallow grave Sept. 7 in a field near Keenesburg, about 40 miles from Denver.
Police discovered she had been at gas station with Forbes two miles away at about 3 a.m. on April 1 after Anthony Lee, Monge's stepfather, received a text on his missing stepdaughter's cellphone from somebody asking if she had made it home OK.
Lee said he called the number back and arranged to meet a man later identified as Forbes at a gas station, where Forbes said he had last seen Monge after giving her a ride there.
"He was doing the crying thing," Lee said after the hearing. "I didn't believe him."
Officers questioned Forbes in April but didn't call him a suspect until this month after he provided details of what happened, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said.
Monge got separated from her friends and left the nightclub, wandering the streets of downtown Denver. Investigators had surveillance footage of her walking into the lobby of a hotel, near where she met Forbes and another man.
The two tried to help get her a car home and she eventually got into Forbes' van. The other man was dropped off at home, and Forbes told investigators he sexually assaulted Monge when she passed out from drinking. An altercation happened when she regained consciousness in the van and Forbes strangled her, Morrissey said.
Before Forbes' sentencing Monday, Monge's mother, Maria Lee, told the judge that Forbes had robbed the family of its dreams.
She showed the judge pictures of her daughter from her high school graduation last year, referring to her as "mi nina," Spanish for "my little girl." Forbes stared down at the defense table as Lee and other family addressed the court.
"I have always been thinking that my little girl was going to come back," Maria Lee said in Spanish in court, adding that her daughter was looking forward to getting an apartment and starting college. "I have an angel in heaven, and I know I will see her again someday.
"I hope that he seeks and asks forgiveness to God."
Added Anthony Lee: "Why did you have to take it to the next level and kill her after you got what you wanted?"
Forbes also is charged in a July 5 apartment fire in Fort Collins that forced a woman to jump from a second-story window. The plea deal reached with prosecutors called for Forbes to plead guilty to attempted first-degree murder in that case and serve 48 years in prison plus five years' parole.
Morrissey said he agreed to not seek the death penalty to spare the families the process of a trial that could take years. He said that in his 30 years as a prosecutor, he had seen only one other case where a defendant pleaded guilty at an advisement hearing.
Forbes' plea came less than three weeks after he was charged. The Fort Collins case was to be heard Tuesday.
Forbes, who has a criminal record for assault, trespassing and theft, worked at a bakery at the time of Monge's disappearance. He also faced an auto theft charge that was later dropped for allegedly driving to Texas with a friend's SUV.
Anthony Lee said he did not know that his stepdaughter had a fake ID and went to nightclubs.
"Had I known that, I would have quashed it," he said. The family has started a foundation in Kenia Monge's name to help parents deal with underage drinking.
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