Letecia Stauch, the El Paso County woman accused of murdering her stepson, on Thursday pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and 12 other charges.
In addition to the murder charge, Stauch’s charges include child abuse and tampering with evidence related to the killing of 11-year-old Gannon Stauch. If convicted of the top charge, she faces life in prison.
Stauch appeared in the courtroom for the first time in months after opting to appear virtually for earlier hearings. Fourth Judicial District Judge Gregory Werner ordered she appear in-person to enter a plea. She wore a short-sleeved, orange jumpsuit and shackles around her hands and ankles that attached to a chain around her waist.
Though the not guilty plea was not for reason of insanity, defense attorney Josh Tolini notified the court that he would likely be entering evidence from a mental health expert on at least some of the charges, though not specifically related to the murder count.
Colorado law says Stauch must now undergo a mental health evaluation, Tolini said after the hearing; he and District Attorney Michael Allen, the lead prosecutor on the case, will argue at a December court date about the "fine minutia" of what that evaluation could look like.
Allen said after the hearing that the move was "a little bit rare."
Multiple mental health experts had previously determined Stauch was competent, causing the judge to determine in January that she could stand trial.
Werner on Thursday scheduled the trial for March 28. It is expected to last about six weeks.
Investigators believe Stauch killed Gannon sometime after 2 p.m. on Jan. 27, 2020. She seemingly cooperated with authorities who were searching for Gannon when he was reported missing, but authorities quickly began to suspect a homicide. Deputies searched the Stauch home on Feb. 3.
The Santa Rosa Sheriff’s Office in Florida announced it had found Gannon’s body less than two months later on March 18. Santa Rosa County is on the Florida Panhandle, east of Pensacola.
Prosecutors in September presented a substantial trove of evidence linking Stauch to the murder. They said Gannon's blood was found on her shoe, tracking data showed she had traveled to an area near where Gannon's body was found, and her DNA was found on a gun tied to the killing.
Investigators determined that Gannon was shot in the head and stabbed in the chest and back.
A weapons expert determined bullets found in Gannon's head and his pillowcase matched the type of ammunition used in a gun found on the nightstand in Stauch's bedroom. The gun had Stauch's DNA on it, but also the DNA of at least two other people, an investigator testified.
Investigators found Gannon's blood on the bed, on the wall next to it and stained into the floor beneath it.
Defense attorneys sought to create doubt that Stauch committed the murder by suggesting that someone else could have entered the home around the time Gannon died, and sought to tie home security data with the unknown DNA on the gun investigators found.
But FBI agent Andrew Cohen testified in September that Stauch was the only person investigators believe could have committed the murder.
“I haven't seen any evidence of anyone else coming into the house,” Cohen said.