BRISTOL TWP., Pa. -- A Bristol Township man has been sentenced to life in prison for the grisly slaying of 14-year-old Autumn Rayne Bartle.
Colin Haag III, 21, formerly of Sycamore Avenue, pleaded guilty Thursday to first-degree murder, attempted rape, aggravated assault and other charges stemming from the spring 2018 killing, admitting he stabbed his cousin more than 160 times and shot her in the head inside the Croydon home where they both lived.
In exchange for his plea, Haag did not face the death penalty.
"The pain and fear that she must have suffered in her final moments is unimaginable," said Bucks County President Judge Wallace H. Bateman Jr.
Having accepted Haag's guilty plea, Bateman sentenced the man to serve life plus 33 and a half to 67 years behind bars. The judge called Haag's attack on Autumn "graphic," "despicable" and "almost indescribable" in its brutality.
Haag assaulted the girl March 30 just after her father left for work at about 5 p.m. She died while hospitalized April 2.
Investigators who analyzed the scene determined Autumn had attempted to escape during the attack, including through the window of a bathroom where Haag had cornered the girl. Blood stains showed Haag closed and locked the window.
Before fleeing, Haag stole two guns from an upstairs bedroom, including the one he used to shoot Autumn.
Autumn's mother Tiffany Larison, after several attempts to contact her daughter by phone, returned home around 6:30 p.m. to find Autumn unconscious on the living room floor and bleeding profusely from her numerous wounds.
Later the same night, Bensalem Police found Haag walking along State Road. Haag shot himself before he was apprehended and told officers he did so because he did not want to go to prison, according to a criminal complaint.
In victim impact statements, members of Autumn's family - the family that had taken Haag in as their own and given him a place to live - did not speak Haag's name. Instead, they referred to him as "the defendant" and focused many of their comments on the joy Autumn brought to their lives.
Noting that her daughter's organs were donated after her death, Larison said Autumn will live on in those she helped.
"She will never be gone. Her magic has been spread," she said. "She is loved and will never ever be gone."
Autumn's father, Michael Bartle Jr., said his daughter was "a miracle."
"The depth of her heart was equaled only by the width of her mind," he said.
Michael Bartle Sr. said he watches his granddaughter's parents "suffer in silence" as they try to carry on in the absence of Autumn's laughter and sarcastic sense of humor.
"We are stronger because Autumn was strong. She was the strongest, bravest woman we have had the privilege to know," he said.
Given the chance to speak, Haag declined. He offered only an apology through his attorney.
In her argument prior to sentencing, Deputy District Attorney Jennifer M. Schorn reflected on the many life events Autumn will never experience, and that her family will never witness.
"The one thing that every parent knows is that the purest joys of parenthood come from watching your children experience the joys of life," she said. "It's truly hard to comprehend the level of their loss."
The case was investigated by Bristol Township Police and Bucks County Detectives with assistance from Bensalem Township Police and Montgomery County Detectives.
Man admits to murder of teen cousin, who was stabbed 160 times, shot in head