Nathan Ybanez

I try to sit down and take the day every Sunday that I am available to do so and spend the day blogging.  Sometimes it can take me a very long time to find a case in which pulls at me enough to decide I want to take the time to research the case and put it together. Other times I will have heard the story recently and it has stuck with me enough that I know when I sit down that is the case I want to do.  

Lately every time I sit down I know what case I want to blog about but I am resisting because it is in the early stages and there is no resolution as of yet.  It is a local case about a 19 year old completely disabled girl who was reported missing a few months ago by her mother who has stated that she woke up to find the girl gone. The community has been in an uproar ever since, with speculation flying everywhere.  Knowing that I would really like to talk about that case, and yet also knowing now is not the proper time has made it a bit harder in finding a case to discuss for me.  And then I found this one. 

I have mentioned in the past that often when I first throw a name from my long, and growing, list of cases to look up I remember very little about how it made it to the list. At first, this case appealed to me because I am currently reading the book "A Mother's Reckoning" by Sue Klebold, the mother of one of the shooters in the Columbine school shooting.  It is an excellent book and discusses so much about how not every child who commits murder is transparent and shows signs of things to come.  When I did a search on Nathan Ybanez the first few tag lines I read made me think of Sue's story, not just based on the idea of not seeing things coming but what I was first reading was indicating that Nathan had been directed and influence by his friend to kill his mother, just as it has been indicated that Sue's son was influence by his friend Eric Harris.  To be fair I should state that while Sue does believe this about her son, she also makes no excuses for her son, Dylan's behavior, or what he did.  

Aside from the fact that Littleton Colorado (where Columbine was) and Highlands Ranch Colorado, where this crime occurred, being a mere twenty minute drive away, I soon learned that there were few things that were similar.  The initial tag line I saw indicating that Nathan's friend, Erik Jensen was the motivator in the crime, apparently seems to have been more a defense tactic than to have any facts behind it.  Of course, this case is not about a school shooting or rampage either, but the murder of a parent by a child.

Nathan Ybanez and his parents, Julie and Roger, had moved to Highlands Ranch in 1996. Nathan was 14 years old and it has been said this was at least his 30th move in his life. He had been born in Iowa where both his parents were from but they had moved to German, Virginia, Illinois and Nebraska at the very least.  Throughout all of these moves his father had a variety of different jobs including being an insurance salesman, a baker and he even took at turn at trying to be a golf pro.  I saw one small reference that indicated Roger may have been involved in some kind of military reserves but I cannot verify this in any way.  It would excuse some of the moves but hardly most of them.  Aside from excusing the moves on his father's ever changing career I could find no other real reason for the multiple moves.  It does not appear that they ever stayed anywhere long enough for neighbors or the community to really get to know them.  His first year in Highlands Ranch Nathan went to a parochial school but the following year enrolled at Highlands Ranch High.  It was said that this is the first public school that Nathan had ever attended.  

It was at Highlands Ranch High, now about 15 years old that Nathan seemed to finally make friends and experience somewhat a normal teenage life.  But it did not take long before people started noticing things were a bit odd about him. Friends, but also adults have been quoted as saying that Nathan was vastly different when his parents were around than when they were not.  Now, then in and of itself does not sound so suspicious, especially the comments from the children, but according to adults who witnessed these things it was not the normal change of character you often see out of children when their parents are present as opposed to when they are not.  Many have reported that Nathan seemed to fear his parents but in the beginning they thought little of it. Nathan appeared to fit in rather quickly with a group of boys that included Erik Jensen and Brett Baker. Jensen and Baker were members of a band called Trouble Bound that has been described as "punk rock" and Nathan played a mean guitar apparently.  

Depending on who's story you believe this is where all the trouble began.  According to his parents it was these influences, with these friends that made Nathan rebel. Nathan's father, Roger, would say that it was these friends who convinced Nathan that he had been abused as a child.  Then again, that appears to be Roger's stance when he's talking out one side of his mouth.  When the other side opens he concedes that he, and he says his wife, had a tendency to "act violently and demeaning" to Nathan.  This includes shoving him, throwing him, and striking him with objects when he was as young as three years old.  He also concedes to a few other things concerning abuse, although he of course does not call it that, but denies any allegations Nathan has made concerning sexual abuse towards at least him, if not also his mother.  For Nathan's part he does admit that it was around this time that he did start experiencing with drugs and alcohol although he has stated it was used as a coping mechanism as opposed to general abuse of the substances. In my opinion I think it was likely a little of both.  First you have a 15 year old child who by all accounts is being allowed to have a normal, or at least somewhat normal, teenage life where he is experiencing many things for the first time, not just the normal teenage experiences but many other things.

Most people it seems agree that Julie, for her part was if not simply an odd and overbearing parent, but a devout Christian who was convinced that Nathan was "under the influence of Satan" caused by his choices in music and friends.  These are not just statements made from other teenagers but apparently family members of Nathan's. Pretty much everyone has said that Julie tracked him obsessively to the near point of stalking, insisting she had to do so in order to protect him.  Aside from comments made from Roger, which I think I have expressed my feelings there, it seems that Roger and Julie's marriage was never really stable and riddled with arguments, abuse and trouble, from both party's apparently. Roger claims that their marriage problems did not begin until there became issues with Nathan and that they had decided to separate to get some alone time.  But, from all accounts that I found this was not completely true as they apparently had issues for many years. And, from my perspective of things the moving around prevented anyone from really seeing a whole lot of what could have been going on.  That is until they got to Highlands Ranch and stayed for what sounded like their longest stable stretch.  

It appears soon after finally getting friends and going to a mainstream school people started noticing things and Nathan mentioned some things to his friends. Sometime in 1997 Nathan had told a few of his friends that his dad beat on him.  One of the friends told their parents and they in turn contacted the police but it sounds as if nothing came of it. Not long after that it appears that Nathan had run away and was on the street for a few days before he himself called the police.  A reports was made and it was said that Nathan had told the officer he was "unable to live with his parents" but said nothing specific as to why.  Nathan also requested that the officer contact social services for "relocation."  A few years later the police report was found, but it was never determined if social services were called and the officer had simply taken him back to his parents. 

On another occasion he showed up at his friend Brett Bakers house in the middle of the night only wearing his underwear.  He told them that his father had woke him up in the middle of the night in a rage, that he had thrown his across the room and choked him while his mother stood by and watched.  It is unclear why the Baker's did not call the police at that point but the following morning Roger and Julie did and the officers showed up at the Baker house and returned Nathan home once again. It was soon after this that Roger and Julie decided that Nathan needed help supposedly and sent him to a "mental hospital" in Louisville.  It was said that he reported at least the choking, if not the other abuse there but once again nothing seemed to be done.

Finally the Bakers and the Jensen's sat down together to have a talk.  They all seemed to know there was abuse going on in the Ybanez home but they had all been told by both the Ybanez's and the police to not get involved. They still felt they needed to do something and decided to contact social services directly.  The Jensen's went and filed the paperwork needed but as was usual nothing seemed to be looked into. Years later when this was looked into by the media neither law enforcement or social services would comment on if anything was done citing privacy issues but both the Jensen's and Nathan claim they were never contacted.

Fast forward to June 6, 1998.  It was about 4:00 in the morning when a police officer was patrolling through a deserted park and found Nathan standing by a car with the trunk open.  On the ground, by his feet laid a sleeping bag.  Inside that sleeping bag was the body of Julie Ybanez.  A coroner would determine that she had been hit at least 20 times in the head but had ultimately died from being strangled. Before it was all over prosecutors would accuse Nathan's friends, Erik Jensen and Brett Baker for also playing a role in the death and aftermath of Julie Ybanez. Eventually Brett would make a deal with prosecutors in which he was given immunity to testify against his two friends. Erik and Nathan would be charged with 1st degree murder.

For their case, prosecutors would claim that Roger and Julie Ybanez had had enough of their rebellious child.  Earlier in the day on June 5th Roger, who had moved out of the home, met Julie and Nathan at their apartment and his parents informed him that they were sending him to military school.  Prosecutors would claim that Nathan and Erik Jensen had planned the murder of Julie and had acted on it after Jensen had picked Nathan up from work later that evening.  

For his part Erik would claim that after picking up Nathan from work he had said he was going to kill his mother but Erik did not take him seriously.  According to Erik he was told to stay in the car for a while and he did so for about 30 minutes.  Erik says that when he did go to the door and knock Julie answered it and he knew then he had been right, that Nathan was just blowing off steam.  But, he says just after that Nathan came running up behind Julie with fireplace tongs and began hitting her.  Erik says at some point Nathan threw the tongs to him but he just dropped them.  When it was all over however, Erik did help cleaning up and in fact they called Brett Baker to help in the aftermath also.  Brett himself testified that Nathan had been the mastermind of the murder and Nathan had told him that while the murder was going on Erik was "scared shitless."  

Even Roger testified for the prosecution.  He told his story about how Nathan had become completely unruly and involved in alcohol and drugs and how he and Julie had been at their wits end. He of course told the story that they had come together to decide on the military school.  When asked what kind of parent he was he admitted to a few struggles with Nathan but nothing major and of course he downplayed all that he did admit to. That part was apparently easy for him because when the defense cross examined him they did not push at all at him.  Most believe that is because Roger was paying the defense attorneys.  

For their part the defense got what story they wanted out through the prosecution witnesses and their opening and closing arguments.  When it was their time to put on their case they called no witnesses.  All of the above information I have filled you, the reader, in about the abuse (there is actually more accusations to come) was never given to the jury.  They never heard that Nathan had scars across the entire lower part of his back that came from beatings he suffered.  They never heard the family members claim how abusive Roger had been to his child. They never heard from any experts on what child abuse does to someone mentally.  What they did hear from the defense was that Erik Jensen was the instigator and Nathan was just his follower. Jensen was a bad influence on Nathan if you asked the defense.  It was not until they had met that Nathan began taking drugs and cutting school. And the most important part to their theory was that Nathan had not been the one to strangle Julie, which was her ultimate cause of death, so Nathan was guilty of nothing more than 2nd degree murder.  They sang Roger's song in saying that this "wrong crowd" Nathan had begun hanging out with had convinced him that he had been abused, when in fact he was not, and steered him towards murdering his mother. They even mocked the abuse, so instead of telling the facts of what had gone on, not just from the words of a boy who had murdered his mother but of grown adults who had little or no dog in that fight, they made Nathan out to be, not an abused boy who'd had enough, but a shy, meek child who was manipulated by peers.  They never gave any valid reasons why these friends would do this and apparently other than petty things neither Jensen or Baker had issues with the law.  Jensen admitted to smoking pot on a fairly frequent basis but that's hardly extremely unusual at that time and his age.  So in essence when Julie Ybanez had told people she was convinced Satan was taking over her son, the defense was agreeing.  Only Satan apparently came in the form of teenage boys.  

The only real issue at hand for them it seemed was getting the degree of charges down.  Seeing as they were juveniles a the time of the offense if the boys were found guilty of 1st degree murder the mandatory sentence was life without parole.  When it was all said and done, both Nathan Ybanez and Erik Jensen were found guilty and received that sentence.

It was not until later when Erik Jensen's lawyer was working on his appeal that the issue of Nathan's abuse was brought up.  Erik's lawyer went to Erik's parents and discussed things with them and they in turn contacted a lawyer named Terrance Johnson to look into Nathan's case also.  It was then that the media as well as the courts were made aware of the previous abuse allegations.  According to Nathan he also states that both parents sexually abused him also. And while Roger denies that of course for his part, in fairness that is an allegation that is almost an always s/he/said issue.  I do not know of a case in which a parent is molesting their child and others, aside from possibly the other parent, saw proof of this, or at least not on purpose that is.  My point is that while all the family members have stated they had witnessed physically abuse from Roger as well as Julie, and they have admitted witnessing Julie's strange obsession with Nathan none can verify that sexual abuse occurred.  That does not mean it did not happen, but it does not mean that it did either.  What we can know for a fact is that physical abuse did occur, scars were left on Nathan's body and reports were filed with both the police and social services.  We also know a doctor and/or nurse at a hospital was told of abuse. And we know by all accounts that none of these allegations were not just not taken seriously but never looked into at all.  

Upon digging more and more Terrence Johnson saw that not only had the original defense attorney, Craig Truman, never filed an appeal on Nathan's behalf, which is standard, he had looked into none of the allegations.  Johnson would also argue later that considering he was a juvenile Nathan should have been appointed a guardian ad litem to make sure his rights were being protected.  Instead, the courts allowed a prosecution witness to pay for the defense, a prosecution witness in which the defendant had accused of abuse.   Roger did not get drilled at the trial about his treatment of Nathan because the prosecution did not want it out there to give the jury a reason to sympathize with Nathan and the defense did not want to lose their paycheck.  

In early 2016 there was some hope granted.  The United States Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to a sentence of life without parole so both Nathan and Erik have had their sentences changed to life, with the possibility of parole after 40 years (unless I am wrong with good behavior that will be 20 years).  This ruling is apparently so new and affected over 40 inmates in the Colorado correctional system alone that they have not updated their inmate information.  At this time both Nathan and Erik are showing life without parole.  This ruling has probably jammed up the court systems as many have already served decades in prison. Erik and Nathan have served almost 18 years themselves. 

The last I could tell at least as far as Nathan goes his attorney's were still working on a case of ineffective counsel from his trial and claiming a conflict of interest considering the defense was paid for by Roger.  

On a side note with this story another interesting theory came out when the abuse was brought up and it was important enough that I did a search on it.  One of Roger Ybanez's sisters was quoted as saying that Roger had been severely abused by their father and she herself had witness his emotional and physical abuse of Nathan.  One of the things I found extremely interesting about this was I found information where Nathan himself and even his friends' parents had tried to protect him by contacting authorities and yet I found nothing saying family members had done so.  That being said, aside from the mention of physical abuse from their father it was also mentioned that he had been accused of sexually molesting at least one of the sisters.  There was also a cursory note that the sister had disappeared and was later found dead.  The father was always a suspect but never charged.  So, doing what I do I did a search on the father also.

On June 13, 1972 Maria Ybanez was 16 years old and had simply disappeared from her Iowa home.  Her parents, Kathryn and Bernardo were in the middle of an apparently bitter divorce. It was said that Maria was going to testify against Bernardo in their divorce about his abuse in general but also apparently his sexual abuse toward her.  At the time she disappeared her mother and some other members of her family were in Tennessee for a family funeral.  They returned only to hear that she had "ran away" or disappeared. I cannot be certain that her disappearance was officially reported. On November 5, 1977 a body was found by hunters in a field.  Pictures were circulated in newspapers of jewelry that was found on the body and one of Maria's former boyfriend contacted the police saying he believed it was her.  Her body was identified on January 24, 1979.  Her cause of death was considered to be strangulation by belt.  Looking into Bernardo (aka Bernie) it was found that he had a record for beating Roger when he was two years old to the point that his eyes were swelled shut.  It appears as little happened other than an arrest... much like little help came for Nathan decades later.  Law enforcement officials believe that Maria had ran away from her father as he was likely attempting to molest her again, or just simply angry she was playing to testify against him.  They believe he chocked her and then dumped her body.  But, they could never find enough evidence to make any charges stick so he was never officially charged.  However, apparently if you asked anyone around town, including law enforcement and even DA's, they knew who killed Maria Ybanez.  

Comments

  1. kristine@mail.postmanllc.net

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love your content, but could you proof your writing, please?

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  3. You should really get your facts together lady before writing your crap. You should of looked more into the story from more than one side of it. Obviously you did not use primary sources for this, saying that there is countless interviews with both Nathan and Erik. Erik never planned to kill her, he just helped his friend clean up. Nathan said that it all happened in an instant and couldn't believe what he had done. In most cases cops will give one suspect a crooked deal to come up with a fabricated story so that they can get "Justice". There for you shouldn't use the testimony of the kid who got the deal to base your article on. Your article would of been a lot better if you would of done more research, and used some of the basic fundamentals of writing.

    Yours Truly,
    A 10th grader

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