EL PASO COUNTY — After months of delays, the woman accused of murdering her 11-year-old stepson, Gannon Stauch, was back in the courtroom for her preliminary hearing on Thursday, September 9.
Letecia Stauch is accused of killing her 11-year-old stepson Gannon in their Lorson Ranch home on January 27, 2020.
A preliminary hearing is when prosecutors must convince the judge there is enough evidence to take the case to trial. Judge Gregory Werner said he will make a decision on if this case goes to trial on September 23 at 9:00 a.m.
In an unusual move, Stauch has waived her presence in this hearing. District Attorney Michael Allen unsuccessfully argued that if she waived her right to presence, she has waived her right to a preliminary hearing. The judge disagreed.
The first witness called in the hearing was Sgt. Jason Yoder of the Santa Rosa Sheriff's Office (Florida). He was called to check out the report of a body found inside a suitcase along the Escambia River Bridge in 2020.
When Sgt. Yoder got there, he saw a suitcase opened, and a body wrapped in blankets. He described seeing injuries to the body described in the autopsy report as a fractured skull, a gunshot wound to the lower jaw, and eighteen sharp force wounds, and what appeared to be defensive wounds on the hands.
He later learned the identity of the boy as Gannon Stauch after a match was made using DNA analysis. According to the coroner who handled the autopsy, the cause of death is listed as a gunshot wound with blunt-force trauma to the head.
Next to testify was Kevin Clark, formerly of the Colorado Springs Police Department employee. He presented data collected from vehicles and Stauch's phone to track her whereabouts the day after investigators believe Gannon was killed. The trips include seemingly random trips in southeastern Colorado Springs, Falcon and into Douglas County. This data gives insight into why investigators spent time in all of those areas conducting searches before the body was found in Florida.
Following a brief break, and in the middle of Clark's testimony, District Attorney Michael Allen said that information recovered from a budget rental van on February 1, 2020, showed Stauch traveling from Colorado to Florida and then South Carolina.
Allen went on to say that the data showed Stauch making stops in Pensacola, Florida just after midnight on February 4.
As Allen continued to present his case, the District Attorney said that Stauch made a reservation at a Candlewood Suites in Pensacola using her cell phone, and that around 4:15 a.m. on February 4th, her phone pinged about three miles from where Gannon's remains were found.
Following a lunch recess, Sgt. Rosario Hubble with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office took the stand. He testified that she gained access to two photos on Leticia Stauch's phone that showed Gannon in bed. He was alive and uninjured at this point. The bedding seen in the photographs appears to be similar to the bedding found in the suitcase where Gannon's remains were found. Body camera video recorded after Gannon was reported missing showed different bedding, which indicates the bedding was changed sometime between January 27th when the photos were taken and when the investigation began in February.
A new picture was introduced during Sgt. Hubble's testimony which showed Gannon's bedroom with the bed removed. The carpet had been ripped up in the corner that was under his bed. Underneath, there was a stain that tested positive as being Gannon's blood. The bed was covering the stain, which leaked through the carpet, and all the way to the concrete underneath it. "The stain saturated the carpet, and the pad, and went directly to the concrete," said Sgt. Hubble. "Before this carpet was pulled, there was no visible blood," he said.
Sgt. Hubble later testified that a 9 millimeter gun was found in Letecia and Al Stauch's bedroom and that evidence recovered in Florida suggests that Gannon was shot with a 9 millimeter. During cross examination, Defense Attorney Will Cook said that there were other people's DNA profiles found on the gun.
The next witness called by the prosecution was Special Agent Andrew Cohen of the FBI. He testified that the Stauch home had a security system and that there was no evidence of an unknown person coming into the home during the time period in which Gannon was killed.
Agent Cohen was asked about the DNA on the gun. The major profile DNA match on that gun was Letecia Stauch, and she was home at the time. Agent Cohen also said, based on evidence, they can pinpoint the day Gannon Stauch was killed.
Colette Bordelon is attending Stauch's preliminary hearing. Follow her tweets from inside the courtroom HERE.
I’m heading to #LeteciaStauch’s preliminary hearing, where prosecutors must prove to the judge there’s enough evidence to take the case to trial.— Colette Bordelon (@ColetteBordelon) September 9, 2021
She’s accused of killing her 11-year-old stepson, #GannonStauch, on Jan. 27, 2020. @KOAA
What we know ➡️ https://t.co/LzTzAA3LGA
Earlier this year, Stauch waived her right to counsel and chose to represent herself. That decision pushed back her originally scheduled preliminary hearing dates, which were set for mid-March.
Stauch was adamant about representing herself, saying she did not believe experts in the legal system held much value in this case. In her Arguello Advisement, she said she has "23 hours a day to work." She also compared the case to poker and said she has an "ace in the hole," insinuating she is innocent.
At her Arguello Advisement, Stauch said she is "confident" in two pieces of evidence "that no science can discredit, and it will clear my name."
Stauch's preliminary hearing was moved to May 20, to give her time to review evidence while in jail.
Then, court documents released on May 3 show Stauch requested a state attorney be appointed to her case, after waiving her right to counsel and deciding to represent herself. Records filed on May 7 show her advisory counsel while a pro se defendant, Josh Tolini, has been appointed to the case.
Stauch's preliminary hearing was pushed back to September 9 and 10 to give Tolini time to review all of the evidence in this case. Tolini also had many other cases already scheduled this summer.
District Attorney Michael Allen has said the two days blocked off for the preliminary hearing, with a third day just in case, should be enough time. The case core is about 1,800 pages, with a total of around 26,000 pages.
The prosecution's witness list for the preliminary hearing has also been released online. Out of the seven names listed, five are from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, and one is from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). Harley Hunt, Stauch's daughter, is also on the list. "The standard at a preliminary hearing is very, very low, for a state to meet their burden for the case to continue. But, I think it does give us a preview of what to expect. Outside of all the forensic evidence that we expect to see in the trial, we want some of that common sense evidence as well," said Stephen Longo, a local attorney who has been following the case closely.
According to the arrest affidavit, investigators believe Gannon was murdered in his bedroom by Stauch on January 27 because of blood evidence they found. Stauch then loaded Gannon's body into her Volkswagen Tiguan, according to the document.
The arrest affidavit claims Stauch texted Hunt to buy carpet cleaner, trash bags, and baking soda. Investigators believe these products were used to clean Gannon's murder scene. The affidavit states there is a receipt to confirm the purchase.
Investigators said Stauch's "story dramatically changed multiple times" in the days following January 27. There is no information available in the affidavit about the discovery of Gannon's remains in the panhandle of Florida on March 20, since her arrest happened on March 2.
Following the discovery in Florida, the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office filed additional charges against Stauch. Here's a full list:
- Count 1 - Murder in the first degree (first-degree felony)
- Count 2 - Murder in the first degree (first-degree felony)
- Count 3 - Child abuse resulting in death (second-degree felony)
- Count 4 - Tampering with a deceased human body (third-degree felony)
- Count 5 - Tampering with physical evidence (sixth-degree felony)
- Count 6 - Crime of violence (special enhancer) - use of firearm
- Count 7 - Crime of violence (special enhancer) - use of a blunt instrument
- Count 8 - Crime of violence (special enhancer) - use of a knife or other sharp instrument
- Count 9 - Crime of violence (special enhancer) - unlawfully causing the death of Gannon Stauch
- Count 10 - Crime of violence (special enhancer) - use of a firearm related to murder in the first degree - child under 12 years of age
- Count 11 - Crime of violence (special enhancer) - use of a blunt instrument related to murder in the first degree - child under 12 years of age
- Count 12 - Crime of violence (special enhancer) - use of a knife or other sharp instrument related to murder in the first degree - child under 12 years of age
- Count 13 - Crime of violence (special enhancer) - unlawfully causing the death of Gannon Stauch related to murder in the first degree - child under 12 years of age
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