August 5 – Abel Lujan was sentenced to the maximum prison term of 48 years for the strangling death of Bernadine “Bernie” Frost in 1999.
Lujan was found guilty of first-degree murder by a Boulder County jury in June, following a four-day retrial in the case.
On Friday, Boulder District Judge Norma Sierra sentenced Lujan to 48 years in prison, the maximum allowed for second-degree murder.
But Lujan, who has been jailed or incarcerated since his first arrest in 2013, will be credited with 3,160 days, a total of nearly nine years.
The sentence of 48 years is the same as that applied in Lujan’s quashed case.
Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty credited police and prosecutors with getting a conviction at a retrial, even after several witnesses had died since the original case.
“Bernie Frost was the victim of a brutal and horrific murder,” Dougherty said in a statement. “Her killer deserved the maximum sentence for what he did to Bernie, her loved ones and this community. Deputy District Attorney Fred Johnson and Adrian Van Nice handled both trials. The two are tireless and outstanding prosecutors; they were honored to fight for justice for Bernie. The Longmont Police Department relentlessly pursued this case, and their efforts made today’s sentencing possible.
“It’s been a long road, but this sentence is the right outcome for what he did.”
Prosecutors said Lujan Frost, 30, beat and strangled him shortly after the two left a Longmont apartment where they attended a party in April 1999.
A man at the party found Frost’s body in an alley outside the apartment building the next morning. Police believe Lujan faked her body after killing her.
Investigators had long suspected that Lujan had murdered Frost, but previous prosecutors only filed charges against him in 2013, when then-Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett chose to move forward with the case.
Lujan denied murdering Frost during several police interrogations, but during the trial, his defense team insisted on manslaughter and acknowledged that Lujan had killed Frost. However, they insisted that he killed Frost after becoming jealous after she hugged another man at the party.
Lujan was found guilty of first-degree murder after a trial in 2015, but the case was remanded to Boulder District Court after the Colorado Court of Appeals overturned the conviction over several errors by the judge that the court said could have cost Lujan a fair trial.
Although Lujan was originally charged with first-degree murder in the case, he was tried again for first-degree murder because the jury chose to convict that lesser charge in his original conviction.