Jesse Harris Pejko
22 Years Old

June 4, 1986 to July 17, 2008

Jesse was a 22 year old college student working on a business degree at Metropolitan State College in Denver, CO. He worked fulltime during the summer at a  local greenhouse and still lived at home with us in Denver. He was our only child. Jesse was 6’ tall and weighed 173 lbs. He was very handsome and had a beautiful smile. He had many friends and enjoyed working out with his buddies and watching professional sports, especially football and basketball.

Jesse’s days off were Wednesdays and Thursdays. On the night of July 16, 2008 (Wednesday) he went out with a few of his friends for some beers. They went to a college kid’s bar on a busy street located just seven blocks from our house. At 1:30 AM Jesse and his friend, Tony, left to walk home. They crossed the busy street and turned south on a side street. Half way down the block there was an employee parking lot in back of a popular bar and restaurant. As they passed the entrance to the lot, Tony asked Jesse to wait while he ran across the street to relieve himself in an alley.

As Jesse waited at the entrance to the lot an on-duty bartender named Michael Robert Cecil came out to move an SUV.  Cecil started yelling obscenities at Jesse when he observed Tony urinating. Jesse yelled back and a fist fight between the two followed. Jesse had no weapon on him but Cecil carried a 3 1/2” hunting knife in his back pocket. He pulled it out and stabbed Jesse in the heart. Then he proceeded to hold Jesse around his 34” waist with his left arm while he reached around with his right hand and stabbed him twice in the back,
puncturing both lungs. Jesse fell to the ground. Tony came running across the street to Jesse. He held him in his arms and said, “Jesse stay with me”. But, he said Jesse just looked at him and then his eyes rolled back and he died.

An ambulance was called and they took Jesse to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. We buried Jesse on July 24th at Denver’s Emanuel Cemetery at Fairmount which was only a 10 minute drive from our house.


Cecil was arrested at the scene and initially charged with first degree murder. One week later, however, the charges were changed to second degree murder and first degree assault because it was determined that Jesse and Cecil had no prior knowledge of each other, so there was no premeditation. The case was prosecuted by the Denver District Attorney. Our prosecutor was Assistant DA Chris Penny. George Brauchler, who was eventually elected District Attorney of Judicial District 18 in Colorado, acted as our Victim Advocate Attorney. Cecil hired one of Denver’s most well-known defense attorneys, Harvey Steinberg, who defends many of Denver’s professional athletes. Therefore, there were numerous delays and continuances.

In November of 2008, the DA offered a plea bargain to reckless manslaughter. Cecil refused and said that he was claiming self-defense. The DA explained to us that although he had
discovered that  Cecil was a known member of a motorcycle gang called “the Destroyers”, which was a pledge gang to the Hells Angels, he had no felony record. Without a felony record it would be hard to convince a jury of his guilt.

In March of 2009, the defense requested a plea bargain of criminally negligent homicide, a class 5 felony. The DA refused and after a few more hearings a trial date was set for August. In July, the DA located another witness so the trial was delayed into December. One week before the trial and after 18 months and 13 court appearances, however, the defense abruptly accepted the plea bargain that had first been offered by the DA –reckless manslaughter, a class 4 felony
under Colorado law with jail time of only 2 to 6 years.

Cecil was sentenced on January 26, 2010. Judge Edward Bronfin stated, “This case has already been weakened enough with this plea bargain” and saw fit to give him the full 6 years. Some thought that the additional witness weakened Cecil’s case. Others speculated that by that time his family had spent over $153,000 financing his defense and could not afford to put up more money to go to trial. Several hundred members of motorcycle gangs were at the hearings to show support for Cecil. The DA expected this and had hidden surveillance cameras running throughout the entire hearing and extra security officers on hand. Cecil began serving his time at a medium security prison in southeastern Colorado but was eventually placed at a minimum security facility in Canon City. In 2011, 2012 and 2013, we were successful in fighting off attempts to transfer him to a half-way house or release him to early parole. Cecil managed to keep his nose clean in prison, however, which earned him time off for good behavior and on March 31, 2014 he was paroled 2 years early because of Colorado's soft laws on incarceration.

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Jesse Harris Pejko