DENVER– A judge on Monday sentenced a woman found guilty of killing her 11-year-old stepson in Colorado and throwing his body over a bridge in Florida to life in prison without parole. She claimed she was insane and that one of her other personalities had been killed doing him a disservice to the mentally ill.
Earlier in the day, a jury found Letecia Stauch guilty of first-degree murder and other charges she faced in the murder of Gannon Stauch more than three years ago. Prosecutors said she stabbed Gannon 18 times as he tried to fight her off before punching him in the head and then shooting him once.
Prosecutors alleged that Stauch killed the boy in January 2020 because she hated him and wanted to hurt his father, Al Stauch, whom she wanted to leave and who was on a National Guard deployment at the time. They said she then put his body in a suitcase and drove it over 1,300 miles in a rented van.
Judge Gregory Werner said Stauch was also motivated by “hatred and jealousy” for Gannon’s mother, Landen Bullard, and upset that he had to care for Gannon and his younger sister.
Unlike other defendants with mental health issues, Werner said Stauch was never surprised by what her allegedly different personality did, but instead took conscious steps to cover up her actions.
“In the minutes, hours and days after the murder, there was no time for Letecia to come out and ask herself, ‘Gee, why am I carrying a corpse around a corpse in my luggage?’ It’s just not believable,” he said.
Al Stauch broke down in court when he addressed Gannon, saying he never thought he would leave him with his “killer” to fit into his father’s palms, but turned out to be a survivor.
“You came into this world fighting. Unfortunately, you left this world fighting,” Bullard said.
Stauch did not deny killing Gannon, but she pleaded not guilty to insanity. The defense argued that she killed Gannon during a “psychotic break” 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 traits, but was sane at the time of Gannon’s death. Under Colorado law, this means understanding the difference between right and wrong and being able to develop intent to commit a crime.
The defense’s chief witness, Dr. Dorothy Lewis, author of the book “Crazy, Not Insane,” which was featured in an HBO documentary of the same name, concluded that Stauch was suffering from dissociative identity disorder — when someone has two or more personalities trauma — and was at the time of the death of Gannon insane.
In the weeks leading up to Gannon’s murder, Stauch was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder after being referred to a psychologist while being treated at a military clinic. Therapist Ronda Niederhauser testified that Stauch showed no signs of threat to herself or others and was aware of her surroundings.
Authorities believe Stauch killed Gannon in his bedroom a few hours before reporting him missing on January 27, 2020, saying he hadn’t come home after playing with friends. Dozens of volunteers helped locate the boy in the area where the family lived near Colorado Springs. However, investigators later revealed that Stauch had fabricated a variety of stories to mislead her, including that a man she hired to fix a carpet raped her and then kidnapped Gannon.
After Al Stauch became suspicious of his wife, he allowed the FBI to tap his phone conversations with Stauch in order to elicit 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 an important part of the evidence presented during the five-week trial.
Gannon’s body was found in a suitcase under a bridge on the Florida Pandhandle during a twice-yearly inspection, which prosecutors called “divine intervention.”
Stauch was convicted of first-degree murder after deliberation, first-degree murder of a child by a person trusted, tampering with a deceased human body, and tampering with evidence.
She appeared to show no reaction to the verdict as it was read, as she sat at the defense table between her two attorneys, or as Al Stauch, Bullard and others discussed with the judge how Gannon’s killing had hurt them.