DENVER — Jurors found a Colorado woman guilty of murder in the death of her 11-year-old stepson Monday, rejecting her claim that she was insane when she attacked him.
Letecia Stauch was found guilty of all charges she faced in the three-year murder of Gannon Stauch after prosecutors said she stabbed Gannon 18 times before hitting him over the head and then shooting him once. Prosecutors argued that Stauch killed the boy in January 2020 because he hated him and wanted to hurt his father, Al Stauch, whom he planned to leave and who was on a National Guard deployment at the time.
Stauch did not deny killing Gannon and taking his body across the country in a suitcase in the back of a rented van. But she pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. The defense argued that she killed Gannon during a «psychotic break» caused by the trauma of 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 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 defense’s main witness, Dr. Dorothy Lewis, author of the book «Crazy, Not Insane» and who appeared in an HBO documentary of the same title, concluded that Stauch suffered from dissociative identity disorder, when someone has two or more personalities as a result. of trauma, and he was not sane at the time Gannon was killed.
Prosecutors, however, noted that Lewis did not know how sanity is defined in Colorado law.
In the weeks before Gannon’s murder, Stauch was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder after being referred to a psychologist while receiving treatment at a military health clinic. Therapist Ronda Niederhauser testified that Stauch did not show signs of being a threat to herself or others and she 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 had not returned home from playing with friends. Dozens of volunteers helped search for the boy in the area where the family lived near Colorado Springs. However, investigators later revealed that Stauch made up a variety of stories to mislead them, including that a man she hired to repair a rug raped her and then kidnapped Gannon.
After Al Stauch became suspicious of his wife, he allowed the FBI to listen in on his phone calls with her, trying to get more information on where Gannon was. Hours of audio from those calls along with video recordings of interviews with Stauch about his mental health were an important part of the evidence offered during the five-week trial.
Gannon’s remains were found by bridge inspectors in March 2020, in a suitcase under a bridge in the Florida Panhandle. Prosecutors suggested that Stauch had escaped from a hotel room where he was staying with his daughter in Pensacola to dispose of her body in the middle of the night, hoping that he would be washed up in the Gulf of Mexico.
Stauch was convicted 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.
She 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 the court talking, she sat there alone, sipping her water.