Authorities are frantically searching for an 11-year-old Colorado boy who went missing over two weeks ago.
Gannon Stauch’s stepmom, Letecia Stauch, told authorities she last saw the child around 3:15 p.m. on Jan. 27 at their Colorado Springs home, before he left for a friend’s house across the street, according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. About two hours later, the stepmom called 911 to report that Stauch had not returned home.
Surveillance video obtained by a neighbor, however, shows Stauch and his stepmother leaving the house in a red pickup truck the morning he went missing. Hours later, Letecia Stauch returned home without her son in the car, the video shows.
A sheriff’s office spokeswoman confirmed to The Daily Beast the boy did not attend his elementary school on Jan. 27.
“Gannon. Bubba. Little man. Mommy’s hero. Wherever you’re at, mommy and daddy are here. We’re begging and pleading for you to come home,” Landen Hiott, Stauch’s mother, said during an emotional press conference on Jan. 30 after flying to Colorado from her home in South Carolina.
“Sometimes we’re jumping for joy because we get information that we might think is a break in the case, and then the next minute we get info, we see something or we get information that just breaks our hearts into a million pieces again,” added Albert Stauch, the boy’s father and a member of the Colorado Springs-based Colorado Army National Guard 100th Missile Defense Brigade.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has classified Stauch as a “missing endangered child” after initially stating he was a runaway. Authorities have not yet said that their investigation is criminal in nature.
To date, investigators have worked over 3,000 hours, received about 358 tips, and enlisted the help of hundreds of volunteers, search dog teams, and horse-mounted deputies to locate Stauch, a sheriff’s spokesperson told The Daily Beast
“This has included large scale searches in addition to small, specific searches,” a sheriff’s news release said. “The investigation and search processes continue to run parallel with one another.”
Investigators have stressed that no one has been arrested or suspected of criminal activity in Stauch’s case, but they have reviewed the home surveillance tape showing the boy leaving home with his stepmother.
The home security camera video, which was obtained by ABC, shows Letecia Stauch and the 11-year-old getting into a red pickup truck in the driveway of their family home at about 10:30 a.m., the day the boy went missing. When the truck returns a few hours later, only the stepmother can be seen exiting the vehicle.
“I just kept searching, and I saw where she came back. And he didn’t get out of the vehicle. So she came back by herself about four hours later,” Rodderick Drayton, a neighbor, told the news outlet. Drayton said he found the video after deciding to search his own home security system and that the boy’s father broke down crying when he was shown the footage.
“She lied about the time,” he said Albert Stauch told him. “He didn’t go to a friend’s house.”
A sheriff’s office spokesperson confirmed investigators do not dispute Drayton’s description of what the footage shows—but stressed the video is only one part of the ongoing investigation.
In an interview with KKTV-11, Letecia Stauch denied any wrongdoing, stating she would “never ever hurt his child” and condemned the death threats she’s received since the video emerged. While she said she could not go into details about the case, she told the news outlet that the day the 11-year-old went missing, the two went for a hike at Garden of the Gods.
“The rumors have gotten so bad,” she said. “I’m like, ‘Why are you saying Gannon is dead?’ He is not dead. We are gonna find Gannon.”
“I love him so much,” she said of her stepson. “I have helped take care of him for so long. Gannon is so kind, he loves to play video games, that is one of his favorite things. He loves Sonic and Mario and you know he is always helpful and always so helpful with the dogs around the house.”