Letecia Stauch guilty of murder in killing of 11-year-old Gannon Stauch, gets two life sentences

Court rejects insanity claim, hands down two life sentences
Posted: 1:43 PM, May 08, 2023
Updated: 2023-05-09 12:00:27-04
Letecia Stauch March 2020
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EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. – The woman charged with killing her 11-year-old stepson and dumping his remains across the country in early 2020 was found guilty of murder Monday and sentenced to two life sentences without parole following a month-long trial.

Letecia Stauch pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the killing of Gannon Stauch in February of last year, after claiming she had suffered a psychotic break that led to the boy’s death – something her defense attorney did not dispute in closing arguments, arguing her actions were not those of a sane woman, who had disassociated since the killing on Jan. 27, 2020.

The jury, however, rejected that claim and found her guilty on all charges after more than a day of deliberations. In court, Stauch did not appear to show any reaction to the verdict as it was read, sitting at the defense table between her two lawyers. Later, as everyone milled around court talking, she sat there alone, taking sips of water.

Closing arguments wrapped up Friday after five weeks of testimony from more than a dozen witnesses, including law enforcement officers from both Colorado and Florida as well as mental health experts, including forensic psychologists from the state of Colorado.

Josh Tolini, Stauch’s defense attorney, said in court the strongest evidence for her lack of mental clarity at the time of the crime was body-worn camera footage of deputies from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office the night Gannon died. Stauch was reportedly laughing, joking, and completely dissociating from what had just happened.

“Those are not the actions of a sane and rational person. Those are the actions of someone who is delusional,” Tolini said.

Earlier in the trial, a forensic psychologist with the Colorado Mental Health Hospital in Pueblo concluded that Stauch was sane at the time Gannon was killed.

But the defense’s main witness, Dr. Dorothy Lewis, concluded Stauch suffered from dissociative identity disorder (DID) and was not sane at the time. The mental health condition is characterized by the presence of two or more personalities in an individual as a result of trauma.

Letecia Stauch found guilty on all charges

Under Colorado law, a person can be found not guilty by reason of insanity if they were incapable of distinguishing right from wrong, or if they suffered from a condition of the mind caused by a mental disease or defect.

Prosecutors, however, argued Stauch took steps to cover up her actions as proof that she knew what she did was wrong and was therefore sane. They said she cleaned up blood in Gannon’s bedroom, where he was killed, moving his body to various locations to hide it before disposing of it in the Florida Panhandle.

In a rebuttal to Tolini’s closing arguments, Fourth Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen said the prosecution proved there was a motive for Stauch to kill Gannon – even though that wasn't something they had to prove in court – because of a Google search which showed she had searched “I hate my stepson,” adding the woman wanted to hurt Gannon, the boy’s father Al, and Gannon’s mom, Landen.

Allen said ultimately, that’s what she did.

“She wanted to kill him,” he said in court Friday.

Stauch was charged with first-degree murder, first-degree murder - child under 12 by one in a position of trust, tampering with a deceased human body and tampering with physical evidence.

Judge Gregory Werner, calling Stauch's actions "the most horrific I have ever seen," gave the defendant two life sentences without parole on the two murder charges and an additional 12 years for tampering with a deceased human body as well as 18 months for tampering with physical evidence, both to be served consecutively.

'The most horrific I have ever seen': Letecia Stauch gets 2 life sentences

Before she heard her fate, both of Gannon's parents — Landen Hiott and Al Stauch — delivered powerfully emotional testimony.

“I miss you Gannon and I love you to the moon, and back and back again!" a tearful Hiott told the court. "The ache I have to hold you, to hug you, to tell you how much I love you, and to see your smile.”

“I refuse to allow anger to poison my soul ... I refuse to allow pain to carry me through each day ... each and every day I pursue peace,” Al Stauch said.

Gannon was reported missing by Stauch on Jan. 27, 2020 – the day she allegedly killed the boy in his bedroom, according to police documents and prosecutors. She told police at the time Gannon had gone to play at a friend’s house and never returned.

Stauch was arrested March 2 of that year in connection with his disappearance, and Gannon’s body was discovered in a suitcase by a construction worker on March 18 in Pace, Fla., underneath a bridge off the side of a highway.

Gannon died of a gunshot wound and skull fracture, an autopsy found, and prosecutors alleged Stauch shot and stabbed the boy, then drove his body to an area off Colorado Highway 105 and South Perry Park Road and dumped it before later driving the corpse to Florida.

Prosecutors claimed Stauch killed the boy because she hated him and wanted to hurt Al Stauch, whom she planned to leave and who was away on a National Guard deployment at the time.

Judge Werner said Stauch was also motivated by “hatred and jealousy” of Gannon’s mother, Landen Bullard, and resentful of being left to take care of Gannon and his younger sister.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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