COLORADO SPRINGS — It’s been a little more than three years since 11-year-old Gannon Stauch was reported missing from his family home in the Lorson Ranch neighborhood southeast of Colorado Springs.
Now, his stepmother Letecia Stauch’s first-degree murder trial began in El Paso County this week. The first stage of the trial was jury selection that began on Monday morning.
Jury selection is expected to last up to two weeks, with an expected start of evidence presentation no later than April 3, and about six weeks of trial for the presentation of evidence in the case.
The judge expressed his opinion of the biggest obstacle in the jury selection process will be jurors claiming hardship for being involved in such a long case, and in his experience, concerns about the nature of the case and the age of the victim. Concerns about pre-trial publicity were considered secondary as the court does not expect to find people who have never heard about the case.
The day started with 75 potential jurors showing up to court. Many of them told the judge they have conflicts like work, school, health concerns and being out of town.
Others said that they have strong feelings about crimes involving children, or have already formed opinions on the case after following it through local news and media. By mid-day, more than half of the potential jurors had been dismissed.
Attorney’s were then given two minutes to present their case against Stauch to the remaining potential jurors.
District Attorney Michael Allen gave a timeline of the events, and then described Gannon's injuries, which included burns, stab wounds, blunt force trauma, and a gunshot wound to the head.
The defense for Stauch also spoke afterward saying, ”You will not hear any type of reasonable explanation why Letecia Stauch would have done this.” They also said that during trial, the jury will hear from friends, neighbors, teachers and other people saying, "Stauch was a loving stepmom, but that her mental health was unraveling," to which they'll also hear experts talk about.
On Monday, the judge and attorneys on both sides narrowed down the potential jurors to a group of 20 people. Judge Werner said they’ll be going through the jury selection process every day until they reach a group of 110 people, and then they’ll bring the first 75 back. Their hope is to do that on April 3rd. He added, it is possible they will not have their projected number of jurors by that date.
For trial, 12 qualified jurors will be selected along with six alternates. Judge Werner said prosecutors and the defense should be finished presenting evidence in mid-to-late May.
As is normal in Colorado courts, media coverage of the events will be limited. Judge Gregory Werner is allowed one member of the print media and one from electronic media in the courtroom for jury selection. 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.
News5 also spoke with a retired judge about the jury selection process in a case like this.
“The fact that it's been a period of time of three years that has lapsed, that there will be many people, many jurors that won't have a distinct recollection about what's going on, and that'll make it easier on both the prosecution and the defense to be able to say, ‘Okay you're knowledge about this case is very limited.’ that's the kind of jury we're looking to see at this time,” said retired Judge Dennis Maes.
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.
'My little boy is not coming home': Parents react to news of stepmother's arrest on murder charge
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.
TIMELINE: From Gannon's disappearance to an arrest
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.
She’s pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the criminal case. 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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