An El Paso County jury is deciding whether a woman who killed her 11-year-old stepson was sane when she stabbed and shot the child or suffered a mental break so extreme that she cannot be held legally responsible for her actions.
Letecia Stauch’s defense attorney did not dispute that the mother and former special education teacher killed her stepson, Gannon Stauch, but said she suffered a mental break before she killed him and has disassociated since the Jan. 27, 2020, killing.
“It was her,” Josh Tolini, Stauch’s defense attorney, said during closing arguments. “But she was not in her right mind when she did it.”
Testimony in the month-long trial in Colorado Springs drew to a close Friday, more than three years after Gannon’s disappearance prompted massive searches and drew national media attention. Stauch, 39, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of murder, tampering with a body and tampering with evidence in connection with Gannon’s death.
Under Colorado law, a person can be found not guilty by reason of insanity if, at the time of the crime, they were so impaired that they either did not understand what they were doing or, if they did know what they were doing, could not recognize their actions as morally wrong.
Jurors were sent to deliberate just after 1 p.m. Friday. If Stauch is found guilty of first-degree murder, she faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison. If she is found not guilty by reason of insanity, she will be committed to a mental hospital for treatment and could eventually be released if her condition improves.
Prosecutors on Friday argued that Stauch’s actions to cover up the killing prove she is not insane.
“If they don’t have the capacity to know right from wrong, they don’t hide the body,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Dave Young said.
Stauch attacked Gannon in his bedroom by stabbing him 18 times, then crushing his skull and then shooting him, according to trial testimony. She hid Gannon’s body in a storage room before moving it to a remote area along the El Paso/Douglas county line, and later hid the body in a suitcase and drove it to Florida.
After weeks of intensive searches around Gannon’s Colorado Springs neighborhood, construction workers found the boy’s body in March 2020 under a bridge near Pensacola, Florida. Investigators never found the tool Stauch used to stab him, the clothing she wore during the attack or the shell casings from the family’s gun, prosecutors previously said. Stauch attempted to clean Gannon’s bedroom of evidence and put her bloody shoes in the washing machine, they said.
“It’s not psychotic, it’s strategic,” Young said.
Prosecutors never developed a motive despite the “biggest investigation in the history of El Paso County” because there wasn’t one, Stauch’s defense attorney said.
“They cannot come up with a motive because there is no motive that makes sense,” Tolini said. “This was a psychotic break.”
In a rebuttal to Tolini’s closing arguments, Fourth Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen said Stauch killed Gannon simply because she hated him. She was looking to leave her marriage and had previously searched online about hating her stepson, he said.
“Does the brutality itself prove psychosis?” Allen asked. “The brutality speaks to the abject hatred she had for Gannon and the pure determination she had to kill Gannon.”
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