Letecia Stauch killed her 11-year-old stepson after suffering a “psychotic crack,” her defense team said in court last week.
The Colorado stepmother is charged with first-degree murder for allegedly stabbing Gannon Stauch 18 times, shooting him in the head, stuffing his body in a suitcase, and tossing him off a bridge in Florida 1500 miles from home, according to prosecutors.
Defense attorney Will Cook told jurors during his opening remarks last week that Stauch suffers from dissociative identity disorder, or DID, a condition brought on by years of childhood trauma.
DID was previously called multiple personality disorder and “is characterized by ‘switching’ to alternate identities,” the Mayo Clinic notes, citing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association. “You may feel the presence of two or more people talking or living inside your head, and you may feel as though you’re possessed by other identities… People with dissociative identity disorder typically also have dissociative amnesia and often have dissociative fugue.”
Cook began his remarks to jurors by showing a photo of Letecia Stauch and Gannon taken just one day before she killed the boy. The image shows the pair smiling together after hiking.
“Behind those photos and smiles Ms. Stauch was dealing with trauma and abuse that had been going on since she was a toddler,” Cook told jurors.
Stauch looked on in tears as Cook delivered his remarks, urging the jury to come into the trial with an open mind and ignore the media coverage of the young boy’s murder.
“The person she was killing that day, the person she was attacking, it wasn’t Gannon,” Cook told jurors. “It wasn’t Gannon to her. She didn’t wake up that day and go, ‘I’m going to kill my stepson.'”
Cook continued: “She was killing her demons. All the demons from the dark depths of her childhood.”
In addition to mental and physical abuse, Cook told jurors that Stauch had been sexually abused as a child, causing her to develop DID.
That sexual abuse was allegedly perpetrated by some of her mother’s lovers, said Cook.
El Paso County District Attorney Michael Allen began his opening statement by telling jurors: “The evidence will show [Stauch] could distinguish between right and wrong.”
Allen said her actions were “deliberate,” as were the lengths she went to in order to “hide her crimes from the world.”
Allen has asked each of the 11 witnesses that he has called to the stand thus far to answer the same question: “Do you think Letecia Stauch was sane when she killed Gannon?”
“I believe she is, and was, absolutely sane,” Gannon’s father and Letecia’s ex-husband Al Stauch testified last week. “From the time I met her to even today.”
He also said during his tearful testimony that his son loved his stepmother.
“One of the things about Gannon, he absolutely loved his mom, and had some of that same love for Letecia,” Al Stauch told jurors while tears rolled down his face. “He was a mama’s boy. I think he had love in his heart for her. I don’t think he was afraid of her.”
Letecia Stauch has been held without bail ever since her arrest in March 2020, approximately six weeks after Gannon first went missing.
Prosecutors claim that days after the murder, Letecia Stauch put Gannon’s lifeless body in a suitcase and drove from Colorado to Florida with her teenage daughter.
Letecia Stauch then allegedly checked into a hotel in Pensacola at midnight, left to go dispose of Gannon’s body by tossing the suitcase off a bridge, and checked out by 11 a.m. the next morning, according to prosecutors.
Florida highway workers found the young boy’s body in a suitcase two weeks after Letecia Stauch’s arrest, and last week prosecutors showed that suitcase to the jury.
Prosecutors continue their case this week. Letecia Stauch is facing life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.