Tika Young's family and friends filled in the seats on the right side of Judge Ted Reed's courtroom as the man who was set to plead guilty for her killing entered.
As he shuffled in, wearing handcuffs, many members of Tika's family did little to mask their anger and disgust. Nagel pleaded guilty to beating Tika Young with a table until she died, and was sentenced to 25 years behind bars.
Reed did not give Nagel the opportunity for parole. Public Defender Roberta McVickers reached a plea deal with prosecutors, taking a first-degree murder charge down to second-degree murder. Nagel will be 87 years old at the end of his sentence.
Tika’s mother said last Tuesday it hurt too much to speak about her loss. Tika’s family and friends chose Evelyn Young, Tika’s niece, as their family member who spoke to the judge about how Nagel's actions had impacted their family. As Evelyn spoke, she cried and her family cried.
“I remember birthdays without presents because I had Tika’s presence. “Her aura filling the room was enough to satisfy any 13-year-old,” Evelyn said.
Evelyn described Tika as the person who would sit with her and watch cartoons, drive her to work, and as someone who wanted the best for everyone. As she read her tear-stained notes, Nagel sat in his seat and watched.
“Tika isn’t coming back because of you. No more birthday parties with Tika dancing around. No more Saturday mornings with Sami and Tika at grandma’s,” Evelyn said. “There is always a last time for everything, though. The last time you go outside and play. The last time you saw your high school teachers and the last time you tell someone you love them. But why was Tika’s last breath with you?"
The family’s pain comes from both the loss of Tika and from the lost wicker trunk Tika had containing family memorabilia and tokens lost within the chaos of the homicide investigations.
Ian Young, Tika’s brother, said that his sister took the wicker trunk containing her childhood photos, photos of their father, and their father’s air force uniform to the home in Blue Ridge. The family said authorities never told the family to pick up Tika’s belongings, so they currently believe it was given away or sold by a landlord.
The family is still trying to find the wicker trunk for its memories inside.
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“Just to get it back to keep it in the family, I would give my life for it,” Ian told the Arizona Daily Sun.
For six months before her family knew she had died, her family was searching for her. They told investigators that someone had been impersonating Tika on social media. Nagel had attempted to convince Tika's family that she had left Arizona and pursued work on the West Coast, deputies found through their investigation.
The family noticed inconsistencies in her messages like misspelling words, improper grammar and spelling, things the family told deputies Tika would never do.
When Tika’s unidentified body was found beneath a pile of pine needles at Bly Pit in March, deputies began looking for her name. Coconino National Forest owns and oversees Bly Pit as an area where people can bring their yard trimmings to be safely burned south of Flagstaff down South Lake Mary Road.
After exhausting other options, investigators made a breakthrough when a medical examiner used the name of Tika’s father — found on dog tags tattooed on Tika's leg — as a lead to her identity.
Then, after a call, a deputy investigator's search for a name connected with the family's search for the fate of their daughter.
Coconino County Sheriff’s Office investigators caught Nagel drinking and driving around Blue Ridge and was brought in for questioning.
After taking Nagel in for questioning, he eventually confessed to killing Tika and leaving her where “only the bears would find her.”
He used a handmade table to kill Tika, and said the table fit “real nice in the wood stove. I threw it in there. Heated the house with it.”
Reed was brief, but cited the family's grief when accepting the sentencing agreed upon by the prosecutor and defense attorneys.
"I do find that your conduct was especially heinous, cruel and depraved in the way the offense was committed and the cover-up was perpetrated," Reed said.
Scott Buffon can be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @scottbuffon or by phone at (928) 556-2250.