DA will not seek death penalty for murder suspects; Ellifritz pleads not guilty
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Prosecutors will not pursue the death penalty for the three suspects accused of murdering 26-year-old Elliot Stahl in October 2019.
Because prosecution is pending, the local District Attorney’s office chose not to comment on the reason for the decision. It follows consultation with Stahl’s family, according to Assistant District Attorney Matthew J.W. Tjosvold, who is serving as lead counsel in the case.
William C. Ellifritz, Brooke L. Forquer and Skyla M. Piccolo-Laabs, all Craig residents, will stand trial on first-degree murder charges, following the conclusion of a four-day preliminary hearing. They face separate trials on charges of first-degree murder after deliberation, first-degree felony murder, aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.
Ellifritz pleaded not guilty to the charges during an arraignment hearing Thursday, Jan. 23. Forquer and Piccolo-Laabs are scheduled to enter pleas during their arraignments, which are set for March 13.
Oct. 13, 2019: Murder suspects Skyla M. Piccolo-Laabs and Brooke L. Forquer admit leaving Elliot Stahl’s body at a location near U.S. Forest Service Road 907 and Routt County Road 7 about 8.5 miles south of Yampa on the way to the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.
Oct. 14, 2019: A fisherman discovers Stahl’s body at around 10:30 a.m. The Routt County Sheriff’s Office responds to the scene and secures the area.
Oct. 15, 2019: Colorado Bureau of Investigation processes the body and the crime scene. That afternoon, an autopsy is performed by forensic pathologist Dr. Michael A. Burson in Loveland.
Oct. 17, 2019: Sheriff identifies the victim as 26-year-old Stahl, of Steamboat Springs, believes death to be a homicide.
Oct. 19, 2019: Piccolo-Laabs, 23; William C. Ellifritz, 26; and Forquer, 21, all from Craig, are arrested on one count each of first-degree murder and booked into the Routt County Jail around 11:40 p.m.
Oct. 21, 2019: 14th Judicial District Judge Shelley Hill rules the three suspects are to be held without bond.
Oct. 25, 2019: The three suspects are officially charged by District Attorney Matt Karzen on one count of murder in the first degree, a Class 1 felony, along with one count of aggravated robbery, a Class 3 felony, and one count of conspiracy to commit robbery, a Class 5 felony. They also were charged with one count of abuse of a corpse, a misdemeanor.
Jan. 6, 2020: First day of combined preliminary hearing and proof evident hearing for the three defendants in Routt County Court.
Jan. 7 and 16: Preliminary hearing continues.
Jan. 17: Preliminary hearing concludes. Piccolo-Laabs, Ellifritz and Forquer are denied bond by 14th Judicial District Chief Judge Michael O’Hara. The original charges stand and the case will now move on to three individual trials.
Jan. 23 Prosecutors decide not to pursue the death penalty for the three suspects. Ellifritz’s defense attorneys plead not guilty to the charges against him.
During the preliminary hearing, prosecutors argued the three suspects had plans to deceive Stahl and trick him into giving them $100 for a ride to Denver, which they never planned to provide. When Stahl became upset over the deception, an altercation broke out that ultimately led to his death, according to Deputy District Attorney Alexandra Jennings.
An autopsy report listed Stahl’s cause of death as exsanguination — loss of blood — due to a stab wound to the neck and the manner of death as homicide. There were five additional stab wounds to Stahl’s body, including a small puncture wound on the left cheek, a stab wound between the left shoulder and pectoral muscle and two wounds near the base of the neck.
According to statements made to law enforcement, Forquer and Piccolo-Laabs said Ellifritz snapped and stabbed Stahl in the neck and then forced them to also stab Stahl with the same knife.
Defense attorneys for Forquer and Piccolo-Laabs argued their clients did not know Ellifritz would attack Stahl, and they felt threatened and forced into cooperating by Ellifritz.
Stahl’s body was found Oct. 14, on a two-track road just off Forest Service Road 907 and Routt County Road 7 near the Flat Tops Wilderness Area. The three suspects were arrested for Stahl’s murder five days later.
Ellifritz is scheduled to stand trial starting May 11. Separate trial dates for Forquer and Piccolo-Laabs are pending their plea hearings.
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