COLORADO SPRINGS — It’s been over three years since 11-year-old Gannon Stauch was reported missing from his family home in the Lorson Ranch neighborhood southeast of Colorado Springs. His stepmother Letecia Stauch is accused of killing him in January 2020. Today, the first-degree murder trial and the case against Letecia Stauch began at the El Paso County Courthouse.
Tuesday is the first day of witness testimony. The prosecution called Gannon's father, Al Stauch, to the stand to talk about his son. He began by talking about how Gannon dreamed of being a YouTube gamer.
The father says he was out of state for work related to his National Guard service when Letecia told him Gannon was not feeling well and did not go to school, but did go to a friend's house and had not returned. Al said he immediately worked to travel back home to help.
According to Al Stauch, "One of the things about Gannon, he absolutely loved his mom, and had some of that same love for Letecia. He was a mama’s boy. I think he had love in his heart for her, I don’t think he was afraid of her."
District Attorney Michael Allen questioned the witness about his relationship with Letecia regarding his work with the National Guard while serving in Alaska. According to Al Stauch, Letecia filed a claim of sexual harassment related to someone he was serving with; and this caused him to be transferred to Colorado. Additionally, the defendant also told him she was pregnant, which was not true, according to Al Stauch.
Throughout the morning, Letecia Stauch has had her head facing down, with her hair covering her face during testimony.
In a line of questioning about the day Gannon was reported missing, the father testified about photos of Gannon in bed sent by Letecia that same morning. He says it was unusual for the blankets to be piled on the bed as seen in the photo, and recognized a blanket that is not normally used by Gannon. He also noted the bed was pulled away from the wall.
The prosecution appears to be pursuing a line of questioning about what Letecia Stauch told her husband versus reality, specifically about claims of trips, her relationship with Gannon, and claims of her being a victim of criminal activity.
The prosecution is expected to playback recordings of several phone calls involving the defendant made to Al Stauch after Gannon was reported as missing.
As is normal in Colorado courts, media coverage of the events will be limited. As of right now, no cameras will be allowed in the courtroom to cover the actual trial process. However, anyone can watch using the virtual courtroom option from the El Paso County court system.
Monday was an emotional day for family and friends, as they'd been waiting months, even years for this trial to begin. Toward the beginning of opening statements, Gannon's biological mom was seen running out of the courtroom, overcome with emotion.
District Attorney Michael Allen was the first to address the jury. He told them the question they will have to answer is whether Stauch is not guilty by reason of insanity. Allen said the evidence will show that the defendant knew between right and wrong, and knew what she was doing as she committed these crimes.
They showed a video taken by Letecia before the murder happened. You couldn’t see Gannon, but can hear him crying and expressing concern about the burns he had gotten. In the video, you could hear Letecia talking about a fire and having to sell items.
The prosecution then showed an autopsy report, which indicated Gannon suffered stab wounds, gunshot wounds, and blunt force trauma. Allen talked about the murder happening in Gannon’s bedroom, which was supposed to be a safe place for a kid, not a nightmare.
Allen said there were no obvious signs of murder because Stauch had cleaned it up. The weapon used to stab Gannon has not been found, and shell casings were not found in Gannon’s room.
The jury then listened to an audio recording from when Stauch called 9-1-1 to report Gannon was missing. When the dispatcher asked, who was the last person to see Gannon alive, Stauch answered, “I guess me.”
Allen said Stauch took deliberate actions to hide her crimes from the world and changed her story multiple times about what happened.
Defense Attorney Will Cook also said this will come down to the sanity question. They asked the jury to give Stauch a fair chance and hear their side of what happened. They said Stauch was legally insane when she killed Gannon.
They also showed a photo taken the day before the murder of Letecia and Gannon smiling with one another.
But behind her smile, they said were years of trauma including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, that she had suffered since she was a child. They said this led to her being diagnosed with a multiple personality disorder.
They also said during the trial, the jury will not hear a motive as to why she would've done this, and that she was in a major psychotic episode at the time Gannon was killed. They said her actions in January 2020 didn’t make sense, and therefore she wasn’t sane.
During opening statements, Stauch had her head facing down, with her hair covering her face most of the time.
Prosecutors also dismissed count 3, which is child abuse resulting in death. Allen said this was charged before Gannon’s body was recovered.
Stauch has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
At the time of his disappearance, law enforcement began a search for Gannon based on information provided by the stepmother who claimed he had gone to a friend’s house and had not returned.
Following several weeks of law enforcement and community-led searches for the missing boy, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office arrested Letecia Stauch in early March on charges of murder, child abuse, and crime of violence before his body was recovered.
Throughout all efforts to locate Gannon, investigators were already focused on Letecia Stauch based on her statements to law enforcement and evidence found at the family home and within her car.
During an initial interview with detectives, Letecia Stauch claimed a Hispanic male had raped her and kidnapped Gannon. According to court documents, she refused to undergo a medical examination to find evidence of a sexual assault and refused to provide any further description of an attacker. She later provided many different versions of events, which investigators detailed in the arrest affidavit.
Investigators believe Gannon was shot, stabbed, and beaten in his basement bedroom by the stepmother on January 27, 2020. A forensic search of the family home found blood stains were found on the boy’s mattress, carpet, baseboards, and electrical socket by his bed.
Police say Gannon’s body was loaded into Stauch’s Volkswagen Tiguan to hide his body before she parked the car at the Colorado Springs Airport where she rented another vehicle and picked up his father after he traveled for military service.
One of the areas searched by law enforcement was a stretch of Highway 105 in Douglas County where investigators recovered a piece of bloody wood. The arrest affidavit states investigators believe Gannon’s body was originally dumped at this location using her Volkswagen, but she later returned to the area in another vehicle.
Gannon’s remains were eventually found on March 17, 2020, inside a suitcase dumped under a bridge near Pace, Florida. Investigators believe the stepmother dumped the body during a trip to South Carolina.
What’s ahead in the trial
In the years since Letecia Stauch’s arrest, she’s been in court many times for hearings about her mental competency, whether she would represent herself in court, and has made accusations of mistreatment.
News5 has reported on the original arrest affidavit in the case and limited information presented in pre-trial hearings. We expect to learn much more about how investigators say Letecia Stauch misled investigators at the same time the community was working to hopefully find Gannon alive.
Civil case filed in federal court
Letecia Stauch has a pending federal lawsuit claiming her First and Eighth Amendment rights were violated in jail. Stauch names a medical service provider, and a food service provider, as well as two El Paso County deputies in the complaint.
Stauch claims she's been mistreated while in jail by claiming she was not properly given kosher food and that the jail neglected to give her medical care.
Currently, the case is in the initial review period with the court. A judge will decide if the case should be dismissed or if it should proceed.
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