Published: March 18, 2014
A hit list reportedly found in the car driven by the man suspected of gunning down Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements a year ago has left many officials on edge as they seek information about who else might have been involved in the slaying.
According to a Denver Post report, more than 20 names were on the list, including some with no apparent ties to Evan Ebel, the parolee who died in a Texas shootout March 21, 2013. Officials believe he killed Nathan Leon on March 17, 2013, and stole his pizza delivery uniform so he could pose as a delivery man at the door of Clements' Monument-area house. Clements was shot to death on March 19, 2013, when he answered his door.
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office has said little over the past year about the Clements' death investigation, which it leads. Repeated calls Monday to the Sheriff's Office were not returned to The Gazette.
But there have been signs that the Colorado Department of Corrections is worried about the safety of its top people.
The Joint Budget Committee recently approved nearly $500,000 to provide DOC director Rick Raemisch and his wife with full-time security. According to committee documents, the money will cover security through the remainder of the 2013-14 fiscal year and the upcoming 2014-15 fiscal year.
"In light of events impacting the Department's former Executive Director, there are specific security concerns surrounding the safety of the Executive Director," the department's funding request stated. "The Department believes there is a need to provide security to increase the safety of the Department Executive Director."
A federal official, speaking anonymously to The Post because he fears for his life and family members' lives, expressed concern about the lack of information coming from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff's investigators have not connected anyone other than Ebel directly with Clements' shooting. Two known members of 211 Crew, a white supremacist prison gang that Ebel belonged to, were sought as "persons of interest" last April. James Franklin Lohr Jr., 48, and Thomas Guolee, 32, were believed to have had contact with Ebel in the days leading to the prison director's slaying, according to the Sheriff's Office. Guolee and Lohr are serving sentences for unrelated felony convictions. The Sheriff's Office has stopped short of naming them as suspects in the killing.
"We have knowledge from an investigative standpoint on what we believe the association of these gentlemen has been," sheriff's spokesman Lt. Jeff Kramer told The Gazette in April. "But until we have additional information that would suggest someone had some kind of more direct involvement . we certainly aren't going to call them a suspect until that happens."
El Paso County Judge Jonathan L. Walker went into hiding in early August after he was warned that 211 Crew leaders had ordered a "hit" against him in retaliation for his part in the investigation of Clements' murder, according to a source who spoke to The Post on condition of anonymity.
The judge had signed about 20 search warrants that each said Benjamin Davis, the founder of the 211 Crew, had a possible role in ordering Clements' murder.
According to a key source, investigators are looking into whether evidence exists that Davis ordered Ebel to kill Clements to repay a debt. Davis protected Ebel when the two were at Sterling Correctional Facility, the Post source said.
Following Ebel's parole, he was in frequent contact with 211 Crew members including Lohr and Guolee. Authorities believe gang members gave Ebel money to buy a car, got him his mismatched license plates and helped arrange the pizza theft in which Ebel shot Leon, the source said.
After killing Clements, Ebel set out for Texas and the home of a paroled 211 Crew member, the source said.
Davis is serving a virtual life prison sentence for his leading role in a widescale prison conspiracy involving drugs and assaults on prisoners from the late 1990s to 2004. He is being held in a general population unit at Buena Vista Correctional Facility.
Raemisch said Davis is not being held in administrative segregation because "he's behaving himself."
To date, one person has been convicted in connection to the killings of Clements and Leon. Stevie Marie Vigil, 28, was sentenced March 3 to 27 months in prison and three years of probation after pleading guilty to giving Ebel the 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun he used in both shootings, records show.
Vigil's sentencing memorandum included a statement that Ebel allegedly forced Leon to record before he was killed, vowing to carry out revenge-driven murders of prison officials in retaliation for inhumane treatment.
"In short you treated us inhumanely, and so we simply seek to do the same, we take comfort in the knowledge that we leave your wives without husbands, and your children fatherless," according to quotes in the legal document. "You wanted to play the mad scientist, well they will be your Frankenstein."
Gazette reporter Andrea Sinclair contributed to this report.