EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV) - The search for a missing Colorado boy continued on Thursday.
Photo courtesy El Paso County Sheriff's Office.
El Paso County Sheriff's Office employees were searching in an area off Highway 83 and Highway 105. There were rumors circulating on social media about a coroner's vehicle being at the scene. Sgt. Deborah Mynatt confirmed with 11 News the search for Gannon is continuing and he has yet to be found.
The stepmother of 11-year-old Gannon was formally charged for first-degree murder and other charges on Wednesday. Click here for more on her case. Stauch's arrest came five weeks to the day after she first reported her stepson a runaway to authorities. She arrived in El Paso County following a nearly 48-hour cross-country journey from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where she was arrested March 2 on first-degree murder charges.
11 News learned that Letecia slipped out of her handcuffs in the back of her transport vehicle from South Carolina to Colorado and reportedly attacked a deputy. Sources tell 11 News the deputy was taken to the hospital with injuries. That's why her transport was suddenly stopped and that's why Letecia was jailed in Kansas for about 12 hours. She was released Thursday morning from the Kansas Jail and appeared for her video advisement in Colorado Springs on Thursday. 11 News asked the El Paso County Sheriff's Office for a comment on the reported attack and an official said they cannot comment at this time.
Gannon's whereabouts remain unknown, but in a somber news conference in the past, law enforcement acknowledged the outcome people across the country had been praying wouldn't come to pass. .
"We sadly do not believe Gannon is alive," said El Paso County Lt. Mitch Mihalko.
Gannon's shattered mother Landen Hiott said she received the horrible news just a few hours before the public did: that the woman she had entrusted with her son was suspected of killing him.
"I never thought I would be standing here," she told reporters. "This is a nightmare."
Gannon's mom and dad stood behind law enforcement as representatives from the various agencies involved in the case stepped up to the podium Monday to address Stauch's arrest and promise justice for the family.
Stauch is facing charges of first-degree murder, child abuse resulting in death, tampering with a deceased body and tampering with evidence.
Her arrest was the culmination of five weeks of intensive search and investigative efforts by numerous agencies, starting with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. Until the arrest March 2, law enforcement had refused to call the case criminal, saying repeatedly they couldn't do so until the evidence led them there.
El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder refused to disclose what led to Stauch's arrest, potential evidence against her, or make any comments on the case to date. But the investigation was far from over, he told reporters.
"We will not stop, and this investigation has only just begun."
MANY COURT DOCUMENTS SEALED
11 News has obtained some 30 pages worth of court documents in the case. A lot of the documents contain requests from Letecia Stauch's attorney asking the judge to keep the case practically sealed and out of the public. One of the documents asks for the judge to ban all media coverage from the case citing unfair coverage and negative publicity making it so her client will have an unfair trial. These are not all the court documents, and there should be more to come.
Meanwhile, the quest to bring Gannon home to his family has not changed.
"We still want to bring Gannon home so he can have a proper burial, and so his family can achieve the closure that he needs," said Michael Allen, who will be the lead prosecutor in the case.
Mihalko said investigators were continuing to make progress in locating Gannon.
"Information has developed that is helping us narrow our search," he told reporters.
The community can expect to see activity related to the case in the weeks and months ahead, he added.
"Our work is only just beginning, and you will continue to see many law enforcement officials in El Paso County over the coming weeks and possibly months as we continue our relentless pursuit of justice for Gannon and his family.”
Law enforcement is asking anyone with credible information that could help in the case to continue to contact the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. Their tipline is 719-520-6666. Tips can also be submitted via email to email@example.com.
What is known about the case
Gannon disappeared on Jan. 27 from his home in Lorson Ranch, a neighborhood southeast of the Colorado Springs Airport.
The case has made national headlines and brought people across the country into Facebook groups dedicated to both discussion and amateur sleuthing.
But despite rampant speculation in the events leading up to and immediately following Gannon's disappearance, investigators have remained tight-lipped throughout and have refused to confirm any details.
The sheriff's office does acknowledge Gannon's stepmother led them to believe initially that he was a runaway, and that on the first night of his disappearance, deputies viewed surveillance at a Kum & Go convenience store on Mesa Ridge Parkway on a report that he may have been sighted there.
On Jan. 30, the case was upgraded to missing-endangered, and since that point, law enforcement divulged little about the investigation and have only revealed a few of the locations searched.
The first few weeks of the search were centered closer to Gannon's neighborhood. In mid-February, the biggest search moved into northern El Paso County and southern Douglas County, with a lot of attention given to a 35-acre area in Larkspur. To date, investigators have not commented on what was found during any of these searches. "Tips and leads that we're getting in that told us that's an area we should direct our attention to," was all Kirby would tell reporters in February when asked why the search moved north.
11 News spoke to a Colorado Springs attorney March 2 after the stepmother's arrest to ask how the case moves forward if Gannon is never found.
"The fact that they were so confident in bringing first-degree murder charges along with several other charges, including tampering with a body, tells me they have plenty of evidence," David McDivitt told reporter Danielle Kreutter.
"They've all been working behind the scenes to build a case that allowed them to make these charges this morning, so there's no doubt in my mind they have a significant amount of physical evidence. To say, 'Look, we don't think we're going to find him alive, and we have also charged his stepmother with first-degree murder and tampering with a body,' these are very serious charges. These are as serious as charges can get, and prosecutors do not make these charges unless they feel like they have the evidence they need to win in court."
If Gannon is never found, McDivitt said the public only needs to look back to last year for an example of a case where prosecutors got a murder conviction despite never finding the victim.
"We've seen as recently as Patrick Frazee ... it can be done without a body, and there's no doubt in my mind the prosecutors have enough evidence where they feel confident to move forward with these charges."
'My boy did not deserve any of this'
Hiott said she would do everything in her power to bring justice to her little boy.
"Justice will be served, and I will make sure that justice is served because my boy did not deserve any of this," she told reporters in the March 2 news conference. "... Hold off on questions until we know that this person, the stepmom that I even trusted, that she will pay 100 percent for the heinous crime thing she has done.
"Gannon has a testimony," she went on. "Gannon has a story. He is special, and this is his story."
Gannon's father, Al Stauch, couldn't speak Monday and had El Paso County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Jacqueline Kirby read a written statement.
"My little boy is not coming home. We will never play Nintendo again. No more taco Tuesdays. No more smooth looking haircuts. No more Big Bubba. And, no more G-man for the world.
"The person who committed this heinous, horrible crime is one that I gave more to anyone else on this planet, and that is a burden that I will carry with me for a very long time."
Hiott thanked the thousands of people locally and across the country who poured their hearts into the case, whether it be through volunteering to search or simply following updates.
"Gannon is with us. After the stories from people all over the world, he's not only my hero now, he's the world's hero. I thank the community for the positive support from a state I had never visited other than two or three times. I'm astounded by the amount of love."
Exclusive interview with Letecia Stauch
The first week of Gannon's disappearance, Stauch agreed to an interview with 11 News reporter Spencer Wilson.
It was her first time to speak publicly, and to date, this remains the only interview Stauch has done on camera.
Stauch was already the center of wide speculation among online groups following the case when she spoke to Wilson, and her response was that she expected everyone would be owing her an apology down the road.
"I am going to be so ecstatic when I am able to say to people that they should have a really sincere apology for all of these theories that have come out online. For all the things that people have said I have done or people have done," she said in the interview.
She claimed she would never hurt her stepson and claimed her own safety was at risk.
"My family is getting a lot of death threats; my family has counted over 20 some death threats already."
Shortly after the interview, Stauch went back to South Carolina, where she is originally from, and where she would be arrested several weeks later.
The last time Gannon was seen?
Feb. 3, exactly one week after Gannon's disappearance, a neighbor came forward with home surveillance video that may be the last image captured of the young boy.
11 News has honored the El Paso County Sheriff's Office's request not to show the video or discuss details about the video that cannot be confirmed by the sheriff's office.
"This video may be a big part of the investigation," said Sgt. Deborah Mynatt with the sheriff's office. "... We hope it will not jeopardize the investigation, but the reason we asked [media[ not to [air the video] was because there is potential for that."
The surveillance shows a driver and passenger getting into a truck Jan. 27, the day Gannon went missing. The truck leaves and returns a few hours later, around 2:30 p.m. Only one person gets out.
It's unknown if there are any other clips of the truck captured on surveillance that same day, and the sheriff's office has not commented if Gannon was seen on any other neighborhood surveillance. Mynatt encouraged neighbors to go through their own videos.
"If you do have those video cameras and you live in that neighborhood, we absolutely ask that you look through those, and I know that some of them are timed out. You know, seven-day captures and things like that, so it might not just be a thing to focus on Monday, focus on the days prior. Anything, any bit of information, is very valuable to this case and to provide that to us."
Neighbor Rodderick Drayton, who found that potentially-crucial video, said he spent hours going through footage and knew when he saw it that he should call the FBI.
11 News reporter Catherine Silver: "And then detectives came out pretty quickly?"
Drayton: "They came out and looked at my camera."
Silver: "What did they tell you?"
Drayton: "That's the break they needed."
Agencies that have assisted with the search
Along with citizen volunteers and the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, the below agencies have assisted with search and/or investigative efforts since Gannon's disappearance.
"We would like to thank the following agencies for their time, ongoing efforts, expertise, and help they provided and continue to provide for this investigation," the El Paso County Sheriff's Office said in a statement March 2.
Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue
Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Colorado Springs Fire Department
Colorado Springs Police Department
Douglas County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue
FBI (Evidence Response Team)
Fountain Police Department
El Paso County Public Works
Emergency Incident Support
Flight for Life (searching purposes only)
Fremont County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue
Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)
Pikes Peak Office of Emergency Management
Tri-Lakes Fire Department
U.S. Army (multiple units - volunteers)
U.S. National Guard 100th Missile Defense Brigade (volunteers)
4th Judicial District Attorney's Office
Colorado Springs Police Department
FBI (Denver and South Carolina)
Fountain Police Department
Horry County Sheriff’s Office
Horry County Police Department
Myrtle Beach Police Department
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED)
"We would also like to thank the community and people from across the nation for your compassion, generosity, support and patience," the sheriff's office said.
Timeline on the case
The timeline from the moment Gannon was reported missing to Stauch's arrest:
Monday, Jan. 27
- 6:55 p.m., El Paso County Sheriff's Office dispatch receives call of runaway child, 6600 block of Mandan Drive in the Lorson Ranch neighborhood.
- 7:32 p.m., Gannon Stauch entered into state and national databases as active runaway
- Last seen between 3 and 4 p.m. on the 27th
- Nothing found on initial search
Tuesday, Jan. 28
- 12:29 p.m., case turned over to EPSO investigators
- Detectives conduct interviews, collect surveillance, follow up on additional leads
Wednesday, Jan. 29
- Investigation continues
Thursday, Jan. 30
- Upgrade case from runaway to endangered missing child
- EPSO requests resources from NCMEC and FBI Crimes Abduction Rapid Deployment Team
Friday, Jan. 31
- Letecia Stauch speaks exclusively to 11 News reporter Spencer Wilson
Monday, Feb. 3
- Neighbor comes forward with home surveillance video showing a a driver and passenger getting into a truck the day Gannon went missing, and only one person returning hours later.
Wednesday, Feb. 5
- 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May is first seen at the Stauch home.
Thursday, Feb. 13
- Search for Gannon moves into Douglas County.
Friday, Feb. 21
- Douglas County search suspended. Sheriff's office says there remains the potential for search efforts to start up any time.
Monday, March 2
- Letecia Stauch arrested in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Wednesday, March 4
-Letecia reportedly attacked a deputy and was held in a Kansas jail, according to a source.
Thursday, March 5
-Letecia arrives in Colorado Springs for a video advisement hearing.