Blank-faced and silent, a Croydon man pleaded guilty Thursday to the murder and attempted rape of his 14-year-old cousin last spring.
“The fear she must have felt is unimaginable," Judge Wallace H. Bateman Jr. said to Colin Haag III inside a Doylestown courtroom. "The brutality of this case is apparent to everyone sitting here, and it’s almost indescribable.”
Haag, 21, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for first-degree murder, as well as four consecutive sentences for attempted rape, burglary, kidnapping, and firearms violations totaling 33 to 67 years.
He admitted to stabbing Autumn Bartle more than 160 times inside the home they shared on Sycamore Avenue in March 2018, and then shooting her in the head at point-blank range with a .380-caliber handgun he had taken from her father’s bedroom.
The assault came after Haag tried to force himself on the girl, said Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Schorn, who noted that Bartle’s hands bore several defensive wounds from when she “valiantly” tried to fight him off.
Haag said little during the proceedings, answering Bateman’s questions with one-word responses in a soft, weak voice.
At the hearing, Bartle’s family offered heartfelt and eloquent victim-impact statements.
Michael D. Bartle Jr. said the depth of his daughter’s heart “only rivaled the width of her mind.” He railed at Haag, who he said “enacted on her the vilest of cruelties” without any remorse.
“I built my days, my years, my life around her. It was always two tickets, two meals. It was always a conversation between us,” Bartle said, his voice thick with tears. “Now all I have is a list of ‘never will’s. And all of that was never her choice."
Haag’s public defender, Deborah Weinman, said her client was the victim of a “chaotic childhood," during which he suffered emotional and physical abuse from his biological father, who later abandoned him. Haag’s mother battled mental health issues and addiction, Weinman said, and attempted suicide several times. She killed herself while she was on the phone with Haag.
Haag suffered from mental-health problems, including ADD, an “unspecified psychosis,” and severe intellectual disability — Weinman said his IQ is 71. He was taken in by Bartle’s grandfather, who renovated the basement of his home and turned it into an apartment for Haag.
There, Weinman said, Haaq isolated himself from his family and became obsessed with gangsta rap, immersing himself in its music and culture.
“Again, this is not a defense and not an excuse, but it helps us understand how this occurred,” Weinman said.
On the day of Autumn Bartle’s death, prosecutors said, her mother, Tiffany Larison, came home from work in a panic after being unable to reach her daughter on her cell phone. She found the girl on the living room floor, brutalized and lying in a pool of blood. More blood was found in nearly every room of the home, Schorn said during the hearing, including one of its bathrooms, where a bloody hand print on a window indicated that Autumn had tried to escape.
Detectives searching the house discovered that Michael Bartle’s two handguns were missing, as was Haag, the only other person expected to be home at the time, Schorn said. A police officer in nearby Bensalem spotted him walking on State Road about three hours later and approached him.
Haag ran and tried to hide in a nearby building. Police found him shortly afterward with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his neck. According to an affidavit of probable cause for his arrest, he told the officers he shot himself because he “didn’t want to go to jail.”
He was carrying the two missing guns as well as a spiral-bound notebook that bore a page with a bloody hand print. The DNA on the page matched Autumn Bartle’s, the affidavit said.