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El Paso County homicides spiked in 2013

By: Lisa Walton,
January 4, 2014 Updated: January 5, 2014 at 6:35 am

Tragedy made frequent appearances in El Paso County during 2013.

The year was a busy one for Inspector John San Agustin, supervisor of investigations for the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

"In my 16-year career I have not seen a year this busy, or near the magnitude of what we've seen in 2013," he said.

The year included record-tying homicides, a devastating fire and an assassination.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office reported 13 homicides during 2013. That number includes a fatal hit-and-run auto crash on Highway 115 in the early morning hours of Dec. 8.

The number also ties the number of homicides for 2002, according to the sheriff's office, and surpasses the number of homicides for 2012, 2011, and 2010 combined.

"When you see a spike like that, the only statement that we can make is that it was a bad year," said San Agustin. "There is no science that you can apply to this."

And, while the homicide investigations were underway, the office had its hands full leading an investigation into the most destructive fire in Colorado history, the Black Forest fire..

San Agustin recalled details surrounding some of 2013's homicides, including a career first -- the day he was called to two homicide scenes in one day.

On Feb. 13, he was on the scene where mechanic Miguel Barajas was found shot to death in his Widefield home, a slaying his wife and stepdaughter were later charged with plotting, when a chilling call came over his radio.

Two small children had reportedly been stabbed at a mobile home on Woodmen Road in Falcon.

When El Paso County sheriff's deputies arrived, they found the body of 1-year-old Scarlett Gallagher, her fatally injured 3-year-old brother Ryan Willhite, and their suspected killer, 22-year-old Ethan Courrau, who later died in the hospital from self-inflicted stab wounds, authorities said.

Courrau, the children's mother's boyfriend, suffered from bipolar disorder.

About a month after that, San Agustin, said Colorado Department of Corrections director Tom Clements was found shot to death on his doorstep.

His murder sparked a national manhunt for his killer, parolee Evan Ebel.

While all the cases have kept him up at night at one point or another, San Agustin said, the March 19 assassination of Clements was jarring because of its magnitude.

"Who would think that someone from the Colorado state government could be assassinated in your community, in El Paso County," he said. "The murder of Mr. Clements was something that a lot of us will never forget."

But none of the cases are forgettable, he said. "Every one of these cases, they all have an effect on you."

About three months after the assassination, another tragedy hit El Paso County, in the form of destructive flames that swept through Black Forest for nine days, destroying 488 homes and killing two people until it was fully contained on June 20.

Four days after that, another murder suicide rocked the community. A Peyton man had killed his wife, his mother and then himself, investigators said.

James Buchanan, 54, led authorities in a chase down Colorado 94 that ended when he crashed his car and then turned his gun on himself, investigators said.

Days later, another homicide.

This time Jacqueline Knudson was found beaten to death in her Manitou Springs home, her killer pleaded guilty to the murder in November.

On Nov. 9, 46-year-old Kenneth Foy Lankford is suspected of driving to the home of Carol and Thomas Fowler, and shooting the couple, killing Carol and seriously wounding Thomas. After leaving the Fowlers' he's suspected of driving to his wife Terry Lankford's home and fatally shooting her, investigators said.

Crime tips were instrumental in his arrest days later.

"If the community doesn't tell us what's going on, a lot of these things would never be solved," he said.

All the year's homicide suspects who are still alive have been arrested, and a juvenile suspected of fatally shooting Fort Carson solider

James Fleming on March 2 has been charged in the crime, he said.

The sheriff's office made their last homicide arrest of the year on Dec. 28, when they took 57-year-old Rae Lena Stanley into custody.

Deputies found her on North Curtis Road wearing only a bloodied long-sleeve T-shirt.

Stanley is suspected of tying, beating and stabbing her 77-year-old mother at a home on the 1400 block of North Curtis Road.

San Agustin would not comment about whether mental illness was a factor in any of the 2013 homicide cases, or even if it was a trending problem in the community, but he says the level of violence is troublesome, he said.

"You can't really reason why people do what they do," he said. "You always wonder how it could have gotten that bad."



Jan. 4

Man found shot to death in mobile home east of Colorado Springs

Victim: William Coffey, 52

Arrested: Donna Raylene Kaiser-Anderson, 57



Man found shot to death Widefield home

Victim: Miguel Barajas,47

Arrested: Sandra Barajas, 52; Dawn Richburg,33;Tommy Wright,34


Feb. 13

Double suicide murder in Falcon

Victims: Scarlett Gallagher, 1; Ryan Willhite, 3

Suspect: Ethan Courrau, 22 (committed suicide)


March 2

Fort Carson solider shot to death in Widefield

Victim: James Fleming, 36

Suspect: Charged but not identified


March 19

Department of Corrections director shot to death in Monument

Victim: Tom Clements, 58

Suspect: Evan Ebel, 28, killed in shootout with authorities in Texas


June 24

Double murder suicide in Peyton

Victims: Grace Buchanan, 89; Annetta Buchanan, 50

Suspect: James Buchanan, 54 (committed suicide)


July 2

Woman found beaten to death in Manitou Springs home

Victim: Jaueline Knudson,56

Arrested: Christopher Miller, 29


Nov. 9

Black Forest shootings

Victims: Terry Lankford, 51; Carol Fowler, 51; Thomas Fowler, 52 (seriously injured)

Arrested: Kenneth Foy Lankford, 46


Dec. 8

Fatal hit-and-run crash on Highway 115

Victim: Ian Saj, 33

Arrested: Jesse Plouvier, 21


Dec. 29

Woman found beaten and stabbed to death in Peyton

Victim: Charlas Stanley, 77

Arrested: Rae Lena Stanley, 57

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