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Investigators: Gannon Stauch’s body was found in suitcase under bridge, had gunshot wound

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Witnesses will take the stand and provide evidence for a preliminary hearing Thursday in the case against Letecia Stauch, the woman accused of killing her 11-year-old stepson Gannon Stauch.

Letecia has been held without bond in the El Paso County Jail since her arrest in March 2020, and the purpose of Thursday's hearing is for prosecutors to lay out the evidence against Letecia and convince a judge that there's enough to go to trial. A bond could also be granted for Letecia, who's facing a slew of charges in connection with Gannon's death.

Gannon was reported missing from his Lorson Ranch home on Jan. 27, 2020. The community joined police officers for multiple searches that extended through the weeks following his disappearance. Then in early March, police arrested Letecia for first-degree murder, tampering with evidence, and other charges while she was in South Carolina. Gannon's body was found on March 17, 2020, near Pace, Florida.

KRDO's Sydnee Stelle is in the courtroom and will provide new information; keep an eye on this article throughout the day for updates.

Updates from Thursday's hearing:

8:55 a.m. Stauch isn't physically in the courtroom for the hearing -- Judge Gregory Werner asked her counsel why she wasn't there since it's typical for a defendant to be present in the room for this type of hearing. Her attorney, Josh Tolini, said Stauch didn't want to be at the hearing in person. Stauch is attending the hearing through a WebEx call, and she said she has "confidence" in her defense counsel.

(CLICK HERE to jump to the noon video recap.)

9:05 a.m. Letecia Stauch has decided she won't witness the hearing, and she left the jail booth. District Attorney Michael Allen objected to her not being present at the hearing, claiming that witnesses needed to be able to point to her to prove she's the one they're talking about. Tolini said he doesn't believe it makes it more difficult for Allen to move forward with the hearing. Judge Werner ruled that the hearing will move forward without Stauch being present.

Stauch said she's not absent for medical reasons, she just said she doesn't want to attend the hearing.

9:10 a.m. The first witness called to the stand was Jason Yoder, a sergeant with the Santa Rosa County Florida Sheriff's Office.

One of the prosecutors in the hearing is Dave Young, the former District Attorney from Adams County who declined to press charges against the officers involved in Elijah McClain's killing.

Yoder began by saying bridge inspectors with the Florida Department of Transportation found a suitcase with a body inside it. The suitcase was under a bridge that was being inspected, and the body was wrapped in blankets. Yoder said it appeared to be the body of a small child.

Yoder testified that there's an emergency pull-out area from the road near the bridge, and you could see where the suitcase was thrown from the pull-out area. Yoder said it was "consistent with someone dropping a suitcase off the bridge."

Young asked Yoder to describe the body, and he said it was severely decomposed, fully clothed, wrapped in blankets, and in the fetal position. Yoder said the body had a fractured skull with a gunshot wound in his jaw, sharp force injuries in his chest and back, defensive wounds to his hands, and cuts on his arms and hands.

9:25 a.m. Yoder said DNA confirmed that the body was Gannon Stauch. Yoder also said there was a "projectile found from the back of his head" and two red plastic pieces.

9:40 a.m. Yoder said there was a pillow in the suitcase that had two holes in it, and it appeared as though bullets had entered the pillow in two places. Yoder said the gunshot wound would've been fatal on its own. He said the same thing about the blunt force trauma to the skull. Yoder also testified that the damage to Gannon's skull could've been caused by the suitcase being dropped about 80-100 feet from the bridge.

Yoder said that the decomposition showed the body had been in the suitcase for more than a month, though it's not clear how long it was under the bridge.

9:45 a.m. The next witness called to the stand was Kevin Clark, who was a senior analyst with the Colorado Springs Police Department when Gannon's body was found. His expertise is in call records and GPS tracking information.

Clark testified that a system called Telematics is installed on certain cars, and the system was on Letecia's Volkswagen Tiguan. Clark said investigators with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation looked at Telematics data from Jan. 28, 2020, the morning after Gannon was first reported missing.

Clark said the Tiguan went to the airport that morning. Gannon's father, Al Stauch, was not in Colorado at the time -- he was in Oklahoma for military training when Gannon was reported missing -- and he was flying into Colorado Springs that day. Letecia then got a rental car, a Kia Rio, and left the airport with Al.

10 a.m. Clark said Telematics data showed that at about 7 p.m. on the 28th, Letecia returned the rental car and got in her Tiguan, heading to Falcon. Cell phone data also matched the Telematics data. She was also sending messages to her daughter and to Al, along with searching the web. That data led to search efforts near the corner of Woodmen and McLaughlin, but no evidence was recovered. Clark said Stauch apparently put her phone in airplane mode when she went to the parking lot.

From 7:30 to 8 p.m., the Tiguan went west on Woodmen Road and she made a stop at 8:08 p.m. for 10 minutes at a gas station near Rangewood Drive and Woodmen Road. Investigators searched that area but didn't find anything.

Clark said the Tiguan went back to Interstate 25, then north to Highway 105 near Monument at 8:34 p.m., then traveling on Hwy 105, doubling back at one point and passing Lake Woodmore Drive at about 8:57 p.m. Clark said the Tiguan went to a brand-new housing development, doubling back and turning around several times. Her phone was in airplane mode at that time. At about 9:07 p.m., the Tiguan got back to I-25.

Clark said the Tiguan went north on I-25 and exited at County Line Road, then traveled to Hwy 105 before going north again into Douglas County. From about 9:30 p.m. to 9:47 p.m. the phone was still in airplane mode, but the car data showed it left the Palmer Lake area heading back to I-25, then exiting at Briargate Parkway.

10:15 a.m. Clark testified that Stauch stopped near the Shops at Briargate Starbucks for about 55 minutes and connected to a WiFi network. Clark said Stauch was communicating with her 17-year-old daughter, Harley, at that time.

At about 10:50 p.m., the Tiguan got back on I-25 and went to a Massage Envy location near Carefree Circle and Powers Boulevard, where Harley worked at the time. Clark testified that Stauch was searching the internet for Amber Alerts and checking the Ring doorbell camera video while connected to a WiFi network at the massage parlor parking lot.

Clark said Harley wasn't at work at the time and later picked up Letecia in her own car at the parking lot. The Tiguan stayed in the parking lot overnight, and the Jetta got back to the Stauch home in Lorson Ranch around 1:23 a.m. Stauch's phone wasn't taken off Airplane mode until Jan. 29th.

10:45 a.m. Clark said investigators seized Letecia's Tiguan and Harley's phone and car, and investigators also placed a GPS device on a rental car acquired by Stauch's aunt.

From 4 p.m. to 5:13 p.m. Friday, the rental car, a Nissan Altima, went back to the S curve near Palmer Lake. That's the same location the Tiguan was at just days prior, and Telematics data showed they had a nearly identical path, according to Clark.

Clark testified that Letecia rented a Budget Rental Van, and she drove to Pensacola, Florida, with her daughter. Surveillance video from multiple locations showed Letecia and Harley making the trip to Florida together before going up to South Carolina. Clark says Letecia and Harley arrived in Pensacola just after midnight on Feb. 4 and they got a hotel room.

Clark said the hotel was just over three miles from where Gannon's body was later discovered.

11:05 a.m. Stauch's defense counsel declined to cross-examine Clark, and he left the stand. The next witness called was El Paso County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Patrick Younkin.

Younkin testified that he responded to the Stauch home for a runaway juvenile call. He said he responded on a busy night, which delayed the response by a few hours. Younkin searched through the home and contacted Letecia twice.

Younkin's body-worn camera video was then played for the court.

11:20 a.m. Investigators didn't find anything in the home, and Letecia said the only thing that appeared to be missing was one of Gannon's gaming consoles.

Letecia told the deputies she had over a hundred Facebook messages that she hadn't answered yet after Gannon's disappearance was reported on a local group page. She told deputies that some neighbors claimed they saw him get into a white SUV.

Younkin's body-worn camera video ended, and Younkin testified that there was no blood or immediate evidence to indicate something violent had occurred in the house or storage room.

11:30 a.m. Stauch's defense counsel started cross-examining Sgt. Younkin. During that testimony, Younkin said he went back to the home on Jan. 29 to assist with a search warrant, and he found a red liquid substance in the garage. He said it was dry and he wasn't sure what it was.

The next witness called to the stand was Lt. John Sarkisian with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

Sarkisian testified that he was asked to run command for the search efforts with local authorities, National Guard members, firefighters, and volunteers. He said searches were conducted from late January to early March, and they used "anything that was available," including drones, planes, four-wheelers, horses, and underwater sonar.

Sarkisian said investigators searched near the S curve and found a piece of plywood board in the area -- A K-9 unit alerted to an area near the curve and that's when searchers found the board with a stain on it. Sarkisian said a presumptive test on scene came back positive for blood, and the next day he was informed it was Gannon's blood.

When questioned by Stauch's defense counsel, Sarkisian said the board was about two to two-and-a-half feet long. Tolini asked if it was big enough to carry a body on, and Sarkisian said he wasn't sure.

Tolini asked if there was any evidence linking the board to the Stauch residence, and Sarkisian said "not that I'm aware of because that part of the investigation wasn't in my purview."

12 p.m. After Sarkisian left the stand, the court adjourned for a lunch break.


1:25 p.m. The hearing resumed at about 1:25 p.m. with Sgt. Rosario Hubbell of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office called to the stand. Hubbell said he was a supervisor in the violent crimes division at the time Gannon went missing.

During Hubbell's testimony, a photo was shown of Gannon in a bedroom, and it looks like he's sleeping. He's wrapped in one of the blankets found in the suitcase, and the sheets have the same shark designs on them as the pillow and blanket found in the suitcase. Hubbell said the bedding in that photo was different from the bedding deputies found on his bed the night of Jan. 27.

Hubbell testified that deputies started looking for blood on Feb. 3, believing the case was a homicide investigation and not a missing persons investigation. The Metro Crime Lab used Blue Star to find blood.

A photo shown in court of Gannon's bedroom after he went missing shows markings on the wall where investigators found blood spatter marks, which were covering much of the wall by his bed. There was also blood found on the carpet below, which had soaked through to the concrete underneath his bed. There was also a stain on Gannon's mattress. More blood was found in multiple spots throughout the house, but the biggest blood stain was in Gannon's room under his bed.

Hubbell testified that the blood matched Gannon's DNA profile.

2:30 p.m. Hubbell said a gun was found in the master bedroom on top of a tall dresser; it was a 9mm Smith and Wesson handgun. Hubbell said the DNA on the gun matched to Letecia Stauch.

Three projectiles were transferred from the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office, and a firearms expert reported that the gun found in the master bedroom was "consistent with the bullets found in the suitcase."

Stauch's defense counsel began asking Hubbell questions, and Hubbell said there were "four DNA contributors found on the gun," with at least two of them belonging to a male.

Stauch's defense asked about hand-drawn diagrams, and Hubbell said a crime scene investigator's camera started having issues. Hubbell said they didn't use another camera possibly because Blue Star requires low light to get high-quality photos. Hubbell revealed that investigators were concerned that they had contaminated the crime scene in Gannon's room because Hubbell had touched the bloodstain on the carpet with an ungloved hand, but he made the note in the report in case an unknown DNA sample was found since it could be his DNA.

2:35 p.m. The next witness called to the stand was FBI Special Agent Andrew Cohen. Cohen said there was no evidence that Gannon's biological parents, Al Stauch and Landen Hiott, were involved in any way. Cohen also testified that Gannon's 8-year-old sister Alaina wasn't involved.

Cohen testified that Letecia and Gannon were the only people home at the time investigators believe Gannon died. He added that there's no evidence indicating Harley was involved in Gannon's killing.

Cohen testified that surveillance video showed Gannon getting into Al's truck with Letecia, and Gannon doesn't appear to be injured. When the truck returned, the video doesn't show Gannon getting out of the truck. Despite that, Cohen said investigators believe Gannon did return home and was killed in his bedroom.

During a cross-examination from Stauch's counsel, Cohen testified that Letecia lied to law enforcement and had a "significant history" of fabricating things. Cohen did acknowledge that some people who were interviewed about Letecia's relationship with Gannon said that Letecia was a good stepmom to him, adding that "Certainly, no one expected this to happen."

DA Michael Allen took over asking questions and had Cohen testify that Letecia initially reported that she had been attacked and the attacker took a suitcase.

3 p.m. After Cohen's testimony, the prosecution rested and Judge Werner said he wouldn't be issuing a ruling on Thursday. Werner said he will set a date in the future but wants to talk to Letecia first.

Letecia was due in court on Friday for another preliminary hearing in connection with an alleged attempt to escape from jail, but Letecia has indicated she wants to waive her right to that hearing. She will make another appearance in court at 3:45 p.m. to discuss Friday's hearing.

(RELATED: Affidavit reveals police timeline of Gannon Stauch’s murder)

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