Students charged in branding |

Students charged in branding

Hayden High School senior says incident was a form of hazing

Four Hayden High School students have been charged with crimes related to a branding incident at a house party in March.

Willy Najera, 18, is being charged with first-degree felony assault and misdemeanor menacing, according to court documents obtained Tuesday. Three unidentified juveniles also have been charged with crimes relating to the same incident. The District Attorney’s Office would not disclose the names of the juveniles or the specific charges they face.

The charges stem from a March 11 party at a home in Hayden. About 15 juveniles were at the party, and some drank alcohol, Hayden police Chief Jody Lenahan said. The mother of the two boys who live at the home was not present. Those two boys were not involved in the branding, Lenahan said.

Police have said that some of the boys at the party wanted to be branded by a hot coat hanger and that others were held down and branded against their will.

Hayden police learned about the incident two days later, when school officials reported it to them. Hayden police investigated the incident and handed over the results of that investigation to the District Attorney’s Office.

Najera was issued a felony summons April 11. According to court documents, Najera, “with the intent to cause serious bodily injury to another person, unlawfully caused serious bodily injury to (a juvenile), by means of a deadly weapon, namely: a heated coat hanger.”

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Najera denied branding anyone. He said he offered to help some of the students who were branded.

“These guys were already doing it, and I just watched and let it go,” Najera said. “I told the kids that were burnt to let it go, and if it happened again, to let me know, and I would do something about it.”

Najera said the students who did the branding thought that “it just seemed like a fun thing.”

“It was more like an initiation thing,” Najera said. “We’ve all gotten paddled, but I guess burning took it too far.”

Najera said he did not see all the brandings, and he said some of the boys wanted to be branded. It did not become an issue he said until Hayden police Officer Gordon Booco began questioning students at the school about the incident.

Booco is the school resource officer.

Routt County Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James is handling the case but was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Najera said he has not contacted an attorney and that he likely will rely on a public defender. He is scheduled to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. May 2.