AURORA | A 58-year-old Aurora man who prosecutors said drove around with his fiancé’s dead body for about 12 hours in January 2017 was recently convicted of first-degree murder, according to the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
An Arapahoe County jury deliberated for about four hours on April 11 before finding Sterling Austin, 58, guilty of murdering his 23-year-old fiancé, Aurora Coleman, sometime between 4 p.m. on Jan. 6, 2017 and about 4 a.m. the next day, according to Vikki Migoya, spokeswoman for the local DA’s office.
“The defendant claimed he loved and cared about Ms. Coleman, but his actions showed otherwise,” Casey Brown, one of the deputy district attorneys who prosecuted the case, said in a statement.
Migoya said Austin called 911 sometime on Jan. 7, 2017 from the 777 Corner Mart at 8950 E. Colfax Ave. in Aurora to report Coleman needed help. She was dead when first-responders arrived at the scene.
Prosecutors believe Austin drove around with Coleman’s corpse in his red 2006 Ford Taurus for up to 12 hours before he eventually called for help.
“The defendant made no effort to summon medical assistance and drove around with Ms. Coleman’s deceased body for 12 hours before attempting to mislead responders,” Brown said in a statement.
Austin initially told authorities he thought Coleman passed out after taking too many drugs, and he didn’t want to get her in trouble by calling the police.
Investigators later suspected Austin of intentionally killing Coleman after learning a witness reported seeing a man in a car identical to Austin’s “punching and choking a woman” in the 1300 block of Elati Street of Denver.
Coleman was strangled to death, according to the Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office.
George Brauchler, 18th Judicial District Attorney, said officials believe Austin strangled Coleman for as many as five minutes.
“There is something particularly torturous about strangling a person to death, feeling them struggle to live and watching the life drain from their faces at less than arms-length for up to five minutes,” Brauchler said in a statement.
He said murder trials have nearly doubled in his judicial district, which encompasses Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln Counties, in the past two years.
“Our office had eight murder trials in 2018,” he said in a statement. “This is the 15th murder trial in our courts this year already.”
The first-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to Migoya.
Coleman is scheduled to be sentenced in Arapahoe County District Court on June 6.