DENVER — Colorado Department of Corrections officials didn't actively search for an escaped felon now charged with killing his mother, according to state records, but the department says he wasn't considered a high risk for violence.
Daniel Stetzel, a 31-year-old five-time felon, escaped a halfway house on June 26 and was arrested in late July after the body of his 54-year-old mother, Kathleen Stetzel, was found in the desert near Grand Junction. He was arrested for being a fugitive, but he was later charged in his mother's death after allegedly confessed to stabbing her with a screwdriver during a fight and then wrapping a bed sheet around her neck.
Records obtained by KMGH-TV (http://bit.ly/1rMt1zZ ) show Stetzel's parole officer didn't try to reach Stetzel's emergency contact, his mother, until two weeks after he escaped from the halfway house. Kathleen Stetzel was reported missing 12 days later on July 22, and the records don't indicate any active searching for him before then, the station reported.
Corrections department spokeswoman Adrienne Jacobson said fugitive searches have to be prioritized and Stetzel, who had served time for robbery and methamphetamine possession, wasn't considered a high risk for violence. Stetzel's parole officer transferred the case to the department's fugitive-apprehension unit on July 10, she said.
However, the records show the unit didn't get involved in the case until July 23 — the day after Kathleen Stetzel was reported missing. It listened to recordings of Stetzel's telephone conversations earlier in the year in jail after he was arrested and waiting to be sent to the halfway house.
The unit was created after a parolee mistakenly released four years early, Evan Ebel, removed the ankle-monitoring bracelet he was required to wear and killed two people — state corrections chief Tom Clements at his home and Nathan Leon, a Denver computer technician and pizza delivery driver.
"We operate a system that prioritizes the apprehension of fugitives by risk, focusing our tracking efforts on those offenders most likely to create more victims," Jacobson said.
The unit started operating on Aug. 1, 2013, with nearly $1 million in funding approved by state lawmakers. It has tracked down over 900 fugitives in the last year.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez said the department's response to Stetzel's escape showed that the state's corrections and parole officers don't have the leadership or the resources they need.
Information from: KMGH-TV, http://www.thedenverchannel.com