Kidnap victim in court as man hears sentence
With her head held high and her arms encircled around a large, white, teddy bear, a 9-year-old girl who was kidnapped last year, but fought free, congratulated herself for having courage during a scary incident that could have ended her life.
“I’m a hero,” the girl’s counselor read in court from a prepared statement Wednesday before the perpetrator was sentenced to life in prison.
“I have people here for me. I know now not to talk to strangers. He fooled me. He needs to stay in jail for the rest of his life.”
That’s exactly where the girl’s attacker, Michael Byerrum, will be.
According to terms of his plea agreement and sentencing by Mesa County District Judge Richard Gurley, the 41-year-old man whom Gurley called a “monster” will serve a minimum of 88 years in prison.
“It is true that she was a hero,” Gurley said. “She saved herself, and she probably saved the community.”
The girl was playing with other girls near her Orchard Mesa apartment complex May 31 when Byerrum grabbed her, placed her in the trunk of his vehicle and drove to a wooded area.
After Byerrum stopped the vehicle, he removed the girl from the trunk and told her not to look at him or he would kill her, according to Byerrum’s arrest affidavit.
But the girl bit him hard on the nose and ran into a wooded area where she was found by police.
“You got what you deserved,” the girl’s older brother said in court to Byerrum, who was dressed in a jail suit with his ankles and wrists shackled, sitting at the defense table.
“She’s a tough girl. I’m glad she bit your nose. There’s a lot of people mad at you, but possibly none more than me. I hope you feel like crap for the rest of your life.”
Byerrum was out on bond from another case when he kidnapped the girl.
District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said investigators believe Byerrum planned to sexually assault the girl, because items of a sexual nature were found in the trunk of his vehicle.
Allegations in an arrest affidavit for Byerrum’s ex-wife indicate he had previously molested another girl.
Byerrum had three prior felony convictions, including kidnapping, second-degree burglary and escape.
“This is a horror that no parent ever wants to experience,” Gurley said to Byerrum.
“I wonder what her fate was if she didn’t have the courage to confront you and attempt to escape. You’re the guy, you’re the man, you’re the monster that parents warn their kids about.”
The girl’s mother read a passage from the Bible, Matthew 18:4, about having respect for children.
Byerrum said he was not “going to ask anybody to feel sorry for me.”
“I never wanted to traumatize her or mess her up in the head,” he said.
After the hearing ended, family members watched from the front row as Byerrum was led by a deputy out of the courtroom.
The girl’s mother gave her daughter a squeeze before they all stood and left the courtroom with their arms around each other.