Letecia Stauch, a Colorado woman, has been found guilty of first-degree murder, 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. The jury rejected her defense that she was insane when she killed her 11-year-old stepson, Gannon Stauch. Letecia Stauch was convicted three years after she stabbed Gannon 18 times, hit him in the head, and then shot him once in January 2020. Stauch did not deny killing Gannon and taking his body across the country in a suitcase in the back of a rented van.
During the five-week trial, prosecutors argued that Stauch killed Gannon because she hated him and wanted to hurt his father, Al Stauch, whom she planned to leave and who was away on a National Guard deployment at the time. Prosecutors suggested that Stauch snuck out from a hotel room where she was staying with her daughter in Pensacola to dispose of Gannon’s body in the middle of the night, hoping it would be swept into the Gulf of Mexico. The evidence presented included audio recordings of conversations between Letecia and her husband and video recordings of interviews with her about her mental health. Gannon’s remains were found in March 2020 by bridge inspectors in a suitcase under a bridge on the Florida Panhandle.
The defense argued that Letecia Stauch killed Gannon during a “psychotic break” caused by trauma from being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused during her childhood. The main defense witness, Dr. Dorothy Lewis, concluded that Stauch suffered from dissociative identity disorder, and was not sane at the time Gannon was killed. However, the prosecution pointed out that Lewis did not know how sanity is defined under Colorado law. The state mental hospital experts concluded that Letecia had a personality disorder with borderline and narcissistic features but was sane at the time Gannon was killed.
In the weeks leading up to Gannon’s killing, Letecia was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder after she was referred to a psychologist while being treated at a military health clinic. The therapist Ronda Niederhauser testified that Letecia did not show any signs of being a threat to herself or others and was aware of her surroundings.
Letecia 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.
The case has drawn widespread attention, and the prosecutor in the case, Michael Allen, said that “It’s hard to imagine a more heinous or despicable crime than what she did to Gannon Stauch.” The victim’s father, Al Stauch, released a statement after the verdict, saying, “We will continue to honor Gannon’s legacy by living a life of love and kindness, and we will never forget the joy he brought to our lives.”
The case has highlighted the difficult issue of how to determine whether someone is legally sane when they commit a crime. The defense argued that Letecia Stauch was not legally sane at the time of the murder because of her mental health issues, while the prosecution argued that she knew what she was doing and understood the difference between right and wrong.
The trial has also raised questions about the system’s response to allegations of abuse, with the defense arguing that Letecia’s traumatic experiences as a child contributed to her mental state at the time of the murder. The case may lead to a broader discussion about how the justice system can better address the underlying issues that may contribute to criminal behavior, including mental illness and childhood trauma.
In the end, the jury’s verdict provides a sense of closure for Gannon’s family, who had endured an agonizing 14 months of uncertainty, searching for answers and hoping for justice. Following the verdict, Gannon’s biological mother, Landen Hiott, thanked the jury and everyone involved in the case for their hard work and dedication.
“It was the hardest year of our lives, and we could not have gotten through it without everyone’s love and support,” Hiott said outside the courthouse. “We are grateful for the justice that was served today.”
While the verdict may bring some sense of closure for Gannon’s family, the trauma and pain of his brutal murder will likely linger for years to come. The trial offered a glimpse into the tragic events that led to Gannon’s death, revealing a web of lies and deceit that Stauch spun in an attempt to cover up her heinous crime.
During the trial, prosecutors argued that Stauch killed Gannon because she resented him and wanted to hurt his father. The evidence showed that Stauch had been planning to leave Al Stauch, who was away on a National Guard deployment at the time of the murder. Prosecutors presented evidence of Stauch’s online searches for information on how to disappear, as well as her web browsing history for searches related to “how to kill someone” and “how to get away with murder.”
The defense, however, painted a different picture of Stauch, portraying her as a victim of childhood abuse who suffered from dissociative identity disorder at the time of the murder. The defense claimed that Stauch’s traumatic childhood experiences had caused her to dissociate from reality, leading her to commit the murder without fully understanding the consequences of her actions.
Despite the defense’s arguments, the jury ultimately found Stauch guilty of all charges, including 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.
Stauch now faces life in prison without the possibility of parole, and her sentencing hearing is scheduled for later this month. While Stauch has not yet spoken publicly about the verdict, her lawyers have said they plan to appeal the decision.
For Gannon’s family and loved ones, the trial has been a painful and emotional experience. But as Hiott said outside the courthouse, the verdict brings some measure of justice for Gannon.
“He can finally rest in peace,” she said. “And we can finally have some peace too.”