The stepmother of a missing 11-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder, authorities confirmed Monday.
Letecia Stauch is being held in South Carolina and will be extradited to Colorado, said El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder. The arrest, confirmed today at a news conference, was the first indication that authorities believe Gannon, who was last seen Jan. 27, is not alive.
In addition to first-degree murder, Letecia Stauch was arrested on the suspicion of child abuse resulting in death, tampering with a deceased body and tampering with evidence.
Gannon was last seen five weeks ago by his stepmother, who told investigators that he had walked to a friend's home nearby. No information has been released on whether the boy made it to the friend's house.
The following is what we know about the case:
- Gannon did not attend school the day he disappeared, according to law enforcement officials. Gannon attends an elementary school in the Widefield School District, a spokeswoman for the school told The Gazette.
- The Sheriff's Office's Major Crimes Unit was called in to assist with the case on Jan. 28. Before then, Gannon was classified as a runaway.
- In an interview with The Gazette, Gannon's great aunt, Veronica Birkenstock, characterized the boy as "a very loving child. Disappearing is totally out of his character; he always has to be with somebody." She added that Gannon was a born a low-birth weight "micropreemie."
- Landen Hiott, Gannon's biological mother, arrived in Colorado Springs from South Carolina late on the evening of Jan. 28 and spent the night talking to law enforcement, Birkenstock said.
- Gannon's father, Albert Stauch, is a member of the Colorado Springs-based Colorado Army National Guard 100th Missile Defense Brigade, the Guard confirmed to The Gazette. The boy's father was away on military training at the time of the disappearance, Birkenstock said. The Guard would not confirm this detail.
- Albert and Hiott, share custody of the boy, Birkenstock said.
- Gannon's status was upgraded to a missing endangered child on Jan. 30 due to his age, need for medication, winter weather and the length of time he's been missing.
- An initial report that the boy was last seen at the Kum & Go on Mesa Ridge Parkway near Fountain was incorrect, according to the Sheriff's Office. Upon reviewing surveillance footage the day after he was reported missing, Gannon's stepmother said the boy suspected to be Gannon was not him, according to law enforcement officials.
- In a Jan. 31 interview with Gazette news partner KKTV, Letecia claimed she was initially denied her request for a lawyer by Sheriff's Office detectives.
- Letecia also said that her 17-year-old daughter was briefly put in handcuffs when detectives pulled over their vehicle Jan. 30. She claims deputies had guns drawn and told her they were going to shoot her without identifying themselves as law enforcement officers. A spokeswoman for the sheriff's office would not comment on the claims, citing the ongoing investigation.
- Foul play is not suspected, and the investigation is not a criminal one, investigators said.
- On Feb. 2, incident command moved from the neighborhood to the Sheriff's Office Training Facility, located across the street from the El Paso County Jail, "based on information gathered from the investigation," according to the Sheriff's Office.
- On Feb. 5, Fourth Judicial District Attorney Dan May visited Gannon's home. Authorities quickly squelched speculation criminal charges are imminent.
- The Sheriff's Office's Crime Lab has been present at Gannon's home on multiple occasions as "evidence is collected and processed," according to the agency.
- On Feb. 7, a “remote-operated vehicle with sonar and video” was used to look for evidence in a small pond near the boy’s home.