A Colorado woman whose defense blamed the savage murder of her 11-year-old stepson and the dumping of his body off a Florida bridge on a “major psychotic crack” was sentenced to life in prison Monday, as the judge rejected her claim that she was insane and one of her other personalities killed him.
Earlier in the day, jurors found Letecia Stauch guilty of first-degree murder after deliberation, first-degree murder of a child by a person in a position of trust, tampering with a deceased human body, and tampering with physical evidence in the killing of 11-year-old Gannon Stauch more than three years ago.
Stauch is said to have attacked the boy in his El Paso County, Colorado, bedroom, in January 2020, stabbing him 18 times as he tried to fight her off before hitting him in the head and then shooting him once. Just a few hours later, she reported him missing, claiming her stepson had not come home from playing with friends.
Prosecutors said Stauch killed the boy because she hated him and wanted to hurt his father, Al Stauch, who was away on a National Guard deployment at the time. They said she then put his body in a suitcase and drove over 1,300 miles with it in a rented van. Fourth Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen cited internet searches suggesting Stauch was unhappy in her marriage and resentful of being treated like an unpaid babysitter of Gannon and his young sister. The searches included, “I hate my stepson,” KMGH-TV reported.
‘PSYCHOTIC CRACK’ TO BLAME FOR 11-YEAR-OLD STEPSON SAVAGE MURDER, DUMPING OF BODY, WOMAN’S DEFENSE ARGUES
Judge Gregory Werner said Stauch was also motivated by “hatred and jealousy” of Gannon’s mother, Landen Bullard. Unlike other defendants with mental health problems, Werner said Stauch was never surprised by what her alleged other personality did but instead took conscious steps to cover up her actions. “There is no time during the minutes, hours, and days following the murder where Letecia came out and wondered, ‘Gee, why am I carrying a body around in my luggage?’ That just isn’t credible,” he said.
The judge described Stauch’s actions as “the most horrific I have ever seen,” giving the woman two life sentences without parole on the two murder charges. She was also sentenced to an additional 12 years for tampering with a deceased human body and 18 months for tampering with physical evidence, to be served consecutively.
Al Stauch broke down in court while addressing Gannon, saying he never would have thought he was leaving him with his “murderer.” Both he and Bullard recalled how their severely premature son weighed about a pound and a half when he was born, able to fit into the palms of his dad’s hands, but proved to be a survivor.
“You came into this world fighting. Unfortunately, you left this world fighting,” Bullard said.
After he was reported missing, dozens of volunteers helped search for the boy in the area around where the family lived near Colorado Springs. Investigators, however, later revealed that Stauch concocted a variety of stories to mislead them, including that a man she hired to repair a carpet raped her and then abducted Gannon.
CLOSING ARGUMENTS NEAR IN GRUESOME COLORADO MURDER TRIAL OF STEPMOM WHO ALLEGEDLY STABBED 11-YEAR-OLD STEPSON
After Al Stauch became suspicious of his wife, he allowed the FBI to listen in on his phone calls with Stauch, trying to draw out more information from her about where Gannon was. Hours of audio from those calls, along with video recordings of interviews with Stauch about her mental health, were a prominent part of the evidence offered during the five-week trial.
Gannon’s body was found in a suitcase below a bridge on the Florida Pandhandle during an inspection done twice a year in what prosecutors called “divine intervention.”
Stauch did not deny killing Gannon, but she pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. The defense argued that she killed Gannon during a “major psychotic crack” caused by trauma from being physically, emotionally and sexually abused during her childhood.
Experts at the state mental hospital concluded that Stauch had a personality disorder with borderline and narcissistic features but was sane at the time Gannon was killed. Under Colorado law, that means understanding the difference between right and wrong and being able to form the intent to commit a crime.
The main defense witness, Dr. Dorothy Lewis, author of the book “Crazy, Not Insane” and featured in an HBO documentary with the same title, concluded Stauch suffered from dissociative identity disorder – when someone has two or more personalities as the result of trauma – and was not sane at the time Gannon was killed.
In the weeks leading up to Gannon’s killing, Stauch was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder after she was referred to a psychologist while being treated at a military health clinic. Therapist Ronda Niederhauser testified that Stauch did not show any signs of being a threat to herself or others and was aware of her surroundings.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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