Gannon's stepmom arrested for first-degree murder, abuse
Last updated 3/6/2020 at 10:41am
The stepmother of Gannon Stauch has been arrested for murder, authorities announced during an emotional press conference Monday. However, Gannon still has not been found.
"There is no way to express the depth of our sympathy, and our hearts break for you," El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder said to members of Gannon's family, who joined officials in front of cameras for the announcement.
Lt. Mitch Mihalko said despite the fact that there has been no body discovered yet, officials "do not believe Gannon is alive."
"The death of a child is something no parent should have to endure," he added.
The news came five weeks to the day since 11-year-old Gannon had been reported missing from his Lorson Ranch home. The announcement created an outpouring of sympathy for the family, but also outrage. Speculation that Letecia Stauch, the stepmother, was involved with Gannon's disappearance had been running rampant since the very first days of the investigation.
Lead prosecutor Michael Allen said that while Letecia Stauch, or Tee as she is commonly known, will be considered "innocent until proven guilty," his team is confident.
"It's our burden to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt," Allen said.
Tee Stauch was arrested early Monday morning in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and was being held without bond in a Horry County detention facility awaiting extradition to Colorado. The charges she faces include:
Murder in the first degree of a child under 12 by someone in a position of trust;
Child abuse resulting in death;
Tampering with a deceased human body; and
Tampering with physical evidence.
Gannon's mother, Landen Hiott, fought back tears as she asked members of the community to remember her son and his remarkable story, which has brought together people from across the globe.
"He's not only my hero now, he's the world's hero," she said.
Gannon's father, Al Stauch, did not speak but had a prepared statement delivered by EPCSO Media Relations Manager Jacqueline Kirby. In it he expressed great sadness at the moments in Gannon's life that he will miss, from teenage years to his journey into manhood.
"We will never play Nintendo again, no more taco Tuesdays, no more smooth-looking haircuts, no more big bubba for my Laina [Gannon's sister], and no more G-Man for the world," he said.
He recalled Gannon's entry into this world on Sept. 29, 2008, as a 1-pound, 6-ounce premature newborn, as well as his "infectious smile and constant laughter."
But he also stated that reconciling his feelings about his wife, the person to whom he entrusted care of his son, would be difficult in light of the accusations against her.
"That is a burden that I will carry with me for a very long time," he said.
Both parents acknowledged their faith in God and the justice system, and insisted that Gannon will live on.
"I know where my son's at, without a shadow of a doubt," Hiott said.
But the anger toward Gannon's stepmom could not be masked.
"Today I got the worst news and the best news," Hiott said. "Obviously we know what the worst news is, but the best news is that justice will be served. And I'll make sure that justice is served, because my boy did not deserve any of this that's happened to him. ... She will pay, 100 percent."
Prosecutor Michael Allen said the affidavit supporting the arrest warrant would remain sealed to protect ongoing criminal proceedings.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Dean Phillips said all the evidence points to Gannon's disappearance being the result of foul play, but that there is no indication of any threat to other children in the community in connection to this case.
Phillips added that the FBI would remain actively involved for as long as it takes to close this investigation.
"We are not done; we will be here with our partners 'til the end," he said. "...And know this: When it comes to the loss of a child, the FBI will always bring all available and logical resources to bear to help our law enforcement partners."
Gannon initially was reported missing the evening of Jan. 27. Tee Stauch said her stepson had last been seen that afternoon when he supposedly went to visit a friend in his neighborhood. His disappearance was classified as a runaway based on Tee Stauch's report.
In the days and weeks that followed, his case was upgraded to missing and endangered while hundreds of volunteers, K-9s, horse-back units and drones scoured Lorson Ranch and numerous areas around El Paso County and Douglas County.
Authorities say additional tips from the public may still be useful. Any information should be called in to (719) 520-6666 or emailed to [email protected]