An 11-year-old boy in Colorado was murdered by his stepmother in his bedroom before she stuffed his body in a suitcase, drove to Florida and threw the case off a bridge, a court has been told.
Prosecutors in El Paso County, Colorado, laid out their case against Letecia Stauch, 37, on Thursday.
They were aiming to convince Judge Gregory Werner that there was enough evidence to proceed with the case. He will announce his decision on September 23.
Gannon Stauch was reported missing on January 27, 2020.
Gannon Stauch’s stepmother Letecia appeared in court in Colorado on Thursday for a hearing over the murder of the 11-year-old boy, to decide if there is enough evidence to proceed
The suspected killer (pictured after her arrest in South Carolina in March 2020) was extradited to Colorado
Jason Yoder, with Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s office in Florida, told the court that their forensic experts believe the boy was killed in his bedroom then driven to his area.
Yoder’s team found Stauch’s body on March 18, beneath an overpass.
In testimony that left the child’s relatives wiping away tears in the courtroom, Yoder said the child’s body had a fractured skull, a gunshot wound to the lower left jaw, and 18 apparent stab wounds – including cuts on the hands and arms consistent with defensive wounds.
An investigator in Colorado, Kevin Clark, then told the court that phone records and internet search information showed Letecia Stauch searching online for cheap car rentals the morning she reported her stepson missing.
She then collected a rental car, which was used to transport the body.
Another rental van was hired to drive down to Florida with her daughter Harley Hunt, now 18.
Stauch texted Hunt to buy carpet cleaner, trash bags, and baking soda. Investigators believe these products were used to clean Gannon’s murder scene.
Stauch is accused of hitting Gannon with a blunt object, stabbing and shooting him before dumping his body in a suitcase
Gannon (pictured) disappeared in Colorado Springs in January 2020. His body was found on March 20, 2020 – 1,400 miles away in Florida
Deputy John Sarkisian with El Paso County Sheriff’s Office testified about the days spent searching for the missing boy, and then finding blood stains inside the house.
The court also heard that the child’s father, Eugene ‘Al’ Stauch, was in Oklahoma with work at the time his son vanished. His mother, Landen Hiott, is also not believed to be involved.
Letecia Stauch’s DNA was present on a 9mm handgun investigators found in the Stauch family’s house. A forensic exam determined that a bullet lodged in Gannon Stauch’s head had been fired from the same gun.
She called 911 shortly before 7pm on January 27, 2020 to say Gannon had failed to return from his friend’s house.
But investigators said Letecia had not gone to search for the boy, and couldn’t provide the name of Gannon’s friend or his parents.
Her story then ‘dramatically changed multiple times over the following days,’ the affidavit states.
‘Letecia lied to investigators on multiple occasions, has unexplained abnormal behavior such as obtaining a rental car, disconnecting her cell phone from the cellular network for an extended period of time, the false reporting of an alleged rape, abnormal patterns of travel, a continuously evolving story with material changes in facts and circumstances, and has since left the State of Colorado,’ the affidavit explains.
Stauch was ruled fit to stand trial on January 27, 2021.
She had wanted to represent herself, before receiving new counsel.
The stepmother faces counts of first-degree murder, child abuse and tampering with a body – in addition to evidence tampering and eight charges of violence.
She also faces charges from June, when she was caught allegedly plotting to escape from El Paso County Jail in Colorado Springs.
The suspected killer had planned to use a broom handle to bust the cell window and had measured herself to check she could fit through it to escape.
Stauch had allegedly enlisted the help of a fellow inmate and offered her money in exchange for helping her, but the other inmate told officials of her plan.
Stauch was already classed as a flight risk and was being kept in segregation from other inmates, spending just one hour a day out of her cell in free time that she must spend alone.
TIMELINE OF GANNON STAUCH CASE:
Jan. 27: Gannon Stauch is reported as a runaway; last seen by stepmother Letecia Stauch between 3.15 pm-4 pm
Jan. 30: Case is upgraded to a missing and endangered child’s case due to his age, need for medication, winter weather and the length of time he’s been missing
Jan. 31: Letecia Stauch gives interview to KKTV saying deputies had threatened to shoot her and put her 17-year-old daughter in handcuffs
Feb. 4: Neighbor Roderrick Drayton shares surveillance video showing what appears to be Letecia returning home at 2.19pm without Gannon in her pickup truck; claims boy’s father broke down in tears when he saw the video
Feb. 5: District Attorney Dan May visits Stauch’s home; Stauch family make YouTube statement to bring Gannon home
Feb. 7: Searchers use submersible remotely operated vehicle with sonar to scour a pond near Stauch family’s home
Feb. 8: Candlelight prayer vigil is held at Lorson Ranch
Feb. 11: Letecia Stauch releases statement to Fox 31 claiming Gannon was in her truck on Jan. 27 and that later left with a ‘friend’
Feb. 21: Ground search for Gannon is halted by investigation continues
Feb 28: Planned search for Gannon is called off without explanation
Mar 2 Letecia Stauch is arrested in connection to the case. Stauch was charged with murder of a child under 12 years of age by a person in a position of trust, child abuse resulting in death and tampering with a dead body. Authorities announce that they don’t believe Gannon is alive, but they haven’t found his body. The investigation is ongoing
March 5: Letecia is extradited from South Carolina to El Paso County, Colorado
March 18: Remains on a boy are found in Pace, Florida
March 20: Autopsy performed on child’s remains tentatively identify the deceased as Gannon Stauch
April 3: Leaked affidavit claims Letecia killed Gannon in his bedroom on January 27 and disposed of his body the next day. It includes photos of Gannon’s room, mattress and walls covered in blood splatters. It also states Letecia ‘lied to investigators on multiple occasions’
May 5: Court records reveal Letecia has been charged with one count of solicitation to commit escape after she planned to break out of El Paso County Jail in Colorado Springs