TACOMA — Jake Musga very well could spend the rest of his life in jail for the savage murder and rape of 2-year-old Chayson Colley of McCleary. He was sentenced on Nov. 21 to 50 years to life in prison.
“This was a singular, brutal and horrific crime,” Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff told the 19-year-old, originally from Snohomish County. “Murder is taking away everything someone has — their future, their past, their present.”
Chushcoff sentenced Musga to 608 months for the murder — nearly twice the standard sentence range; as well as 258 months for rape, noting the sentence was fitting since there was clear evidence that Chayson had been savagely beaten from head to toe before his death. However, because of the state’s sex offense laws, the state’s Indeterminate Sentence Review Board will decide when, if ever, Musga would qualify for release.
Pierce County Deputy Prosecutors Angelica Williams and Jared Ausuerer had asked for a sentence of 60 years to life. Defense attorney Richard Warner had asked the judge for 25 years, request the judge to consider the fact that Musga was extremely drunk, as well as his young age of 19.
Musga read a letter apologizing to the family and the court.
“I know there is no possible way to take back my actions,” Musga said. “Chayson was an innocent life taken away and many others have been emotionally damaged because they lost a young child that was close to them. … I just want everyone to know how truly sorry I am. Not a single day goes by that I don’t think about Chayson. I just wish there was some way I could bring him back to his mother. I would trade my life for his without hesitation. I do not remember much about that night, but that is no excuse. I accept full responsibility for my actions and I will be complying with any and all recommendations from the court. I don’t know why I thought I could take care of a young child when I can barely take care of myself. Drinking alcohol and babysitting was very irresponsible of me, especially when I am not even old enough to drink.”
At about 4 a.m. on March 30, a 911 caller reported that the defendant was in the lobby of the Commencement Terrace apartment complex holding a badly bruised young boy who was not breathing. A witness called 911. The toddler died later that night.
Chayson was the son of Laura Colley and Brannon Jones and the grandson of Ron and Bobbye Choate Jones as well as Cathy and Troy Colley. Cathy is involved in Republican political circles and works for the Legislature. Troy is a McCleary School Board member. Ron Jones is a contract forester and has lived in the Elma area his entire life.
Commencement Terrace is where the boy and mother lived and also worked as a leasing manager, a job she had taken just a couple of months before Colley was murdered. Prior to that, she and the boy lived with the Colleys in McCleary.
Laura was not at home at the time of the murder. She was celebrating her birthday. Musga was her boyfriend and was watching the child.
The courtroom, the afternoon of Nov. 21, was filled with family and friends, many wearing buttons with Chayson’s picture on them.
“We have all been given a life sentence,” Cathy told the judge. “It only seems fair for him to have a life sentence.”
“It is impossible to summarize the impact that my son Chayson’s death has had on my life,” Laura told the judge. “I am without words to express what a tragedy this has been for myself and my family. When I lost Chayson I lost the love of my life. I never dreamed of having to live in a world where my son, Chayson Troy Colley, did not exist. I had high hopes for Chayson’s life. He was a star in every aspect of his life even at just 2 years old. … I miss my son. His favorite book was ‘I’ll Love You Forever.’ And I will love you forever and I will like you for always. As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”
“Our family has suffered a tremendous loss,” grandmother Bobbye Choate Jones told the judge, with her husband Ron and son Brannon standing next to her. “He should have been provided love and protection. He was denied both. Within two weeks of us celebrating Chayson’s birthday, he was bruised from head to toe. He had no protector within the torture chamber that was that apartment.”
Marie Jones, Chayson’s great-grandmother, wrote a letter to the court noting that at his funeral, the family played a video.
“What hit me the hardest while watching it was that it was too short,” she wrote to the judge. “There were only a couple of Christmases, a couple of birthdays. Chayson deserved more than that. He deserved to live and grow up, to have his first day of school, his first car, graduations, a wedding, babies of his own. All that have been denied him, and in turn, denied to his family who were expecting to get to experience all of those things with him.”
Musga’s mother, Janet, sent her deepest sympathy to Chayson’s family.
“How do you ask for mercy and forgiveness for someone who held a dying child in his arms?” she said. “As humans, we want answers. We want to know why. How could this have happened? How could we have prevented this from happening? There’s no answers.”
Wearing a gray Pierce County Jail jumpsuit, Musga claimed he didn’t have a clear recollection of that night.
The judge didn’t buy it.
“When we ask why this happened, no one really has a good answer here and when Ms. Musga talks about how she has discussed this with her son and why they really don’t know, I suspect there is at least truth of that from Ms. Musga’s point of view,” Chushcoff said. “I do think Mr. Musga knows something. He was there. I don’t think he was so out of touch with his senses that he doesn’t remember half of it. He says he has no memory or little memory. But he was able to give all kinds of explanations to the police that was not substantially accurate. I suspect Mr. Musga does, indeed, have an intact memory of what happened here but I suspect it’s just not easy for him to remember. Maybe that’s some sign of some conscience, which would be a good thing. …
“Certainly, when one is intoxicated one is putting not only oneself at risk, but anyone having to deal with them,” Chushcoff said. “That was a choice he made.”
Defense attorneys note that Musga’s blood-alcohol level was never tested by police. But Chayson’s blood-alcohol level was tested, certified at .124. Prosecutors adjusted the test lower to .11 in their papers, still nearly one and a half times the legal limit for an adult. Prosecutors allege that Musga forced Chayson vodka, finding ethanol traces in his bottle and damage to the front of his mouth from being forced.
A pre-sentencing report to the court noted that Musga’s family had a history of alcoholism.
“Mr. Musga, when asked about the potentially long sentence he was facing, said that he feels like he wants to go in and take responsibility got it,” the report states. “He said that he hopes that will allow the victim’s family the help they may need in the situation.”
There was disagreement between the prosecution and defense on the rape charge, with prosecutors alleging that traces of a chemical contained in semen was on a diaper and, using that as proof that Musga violated Chayson with his penis. Musga has admitted to violating Chayson with his fingers with his defense attorneys saying that no actual semen was found or DNA evidence.
As part of the prosecution’s case, they showed many of the bruised images of Chayson’s body. Family members on the Colley side had asked the court not to allow that, worried that media outlets would display the images of their loved one’s young body on television. Attorneys for the defense also objected to the display of the photos.
Judge Chushcoff allowed the photos to be shown, although Laura and her father Troy left the courtroom during that time. During their Nov. 21 evening news broadcasts, neither KOMO nor Q-13 FOX showed the bruised photos. It wasn’t clear if any other outlets had access to the pool footage. The Vidette has chosen not to publish the photos.
“We also feel that Jake needs to see those pictures,” Bobbye Choate Jones told the judge. “He needs to understand the level of what his actions caused.”
Musga never did look at the photos. He kept his gaze down on the table in front of him for most of the sentencing until he was allowed to speak. He had a bound piece of Kleenex in his hand he’d occasionally use on one of his eyes as the horrendous acts committed against Chayson were read out loud. At the end of the power point presentation, when video and pictures provided by the family were shown, he looked at those happy pictures of Chayson playing briefly before looking away.
Meantime, prosecutors asked the judge to seal the court file to avoid more details of Chayson’s death and the photos from getting out into the public. He denied that motion, but ordered that the files not be removed from the Clerk’s Office “to protect the integrity of the documents.”