Hearings postponed for Routt County murder suspects | SteamboatToday.com

Hearings postponed for Routt County murder suspects

Brooke L. Forquer, William C. Ellifritz and Skyla M. Piccolo-Laabs

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Criminal hearings have been postponed for the three suspects allegedly involved in the October 2019 murder of 26-year-old Elliot Stahl in Routt County.

Brooke Forquer and Skyla Piccolo-Laabs had sentencing hearings scheduled for Friday, according to court records. Those proceedings have been postponed until Oct. 15 and 16, respectively, due to an “irreconcilable scheduling conflict” with someone who has a right to attend the hearings, according to the Routt County District Attorney’s Office.

The two women struck plea deals with the 14th Judicial District Court in May, according to court records. Forquer and Piccolo-Laabs faced five charges before their plea agreements, including manslaughter, accessory to crime, aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and abuse of a corpse. 

Under the agreement, they pleaded guilty to an amended count of reckless manslaughter, a second amended count of accessory to first-degree murder and to the charge of abusing a corpse. The other charges would be dismissed under the plea deal.

The first count carries a sentence of 10 years, according to court records. A judge has the discretion to stipulate to an open sentence for the second charge that could be carried out either concurrently or consecutively to the manslaughter charge, depending on the judge’s decision. The third charge, abusing a corpse, would run concurrently with the manslaughter charge.

“This offer may be withdrawn if the defendant is accused of or charged with a new crime prior to sentencing or fails to appear for any court dates prior to sentencing,” the plea agreement reads.

The third suspect, William C. Ellifritz, faced the same charges but pleaded not guilty. He was scheduled for a motions hearing at the end of September and a six-week jury trial beginning Nov. 9, but those also have been postponed. He faces four charges, including first-degree murder after deliberation, first-degree felony murder, aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.

During a virtual court appearance Friday, Judge Michael O’Hara tentatively rescheduled the jury trial for March 8, 2021, following a request from Ellifritz’s lawyers to delay the proceedings. In order to allow the delay, Ellifritz waived his right to a speedy trial, as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. He has been in custody for about 11 months.

The DA’s Office did not oppose the delay. 

An autopsy report described Stahl’s cause of death as exsanguination, or loss of blood, from a stab wound to the neck. Stahl’s body showed five additional stab wounds. The report listed the manner of death as homicide. 

According to statements made to law enforcement in October 2019, Forquer and Piccolo-Laabs said the murder occurred while they, Ellifritz and Stahl were driving east of Steamboat Springs. 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.

During a sudden altercation inside the car, Ellifritz allegedly stabbed Stahl in the neck and then forced the two women to also stab Stahl with the same knife, according to statements from Forquer and Piccolo-Laabs. 

The women’s defense attorneys argued their clients did not know Ellifritz would attack Stahl, and they felt threatened and forced into cooperating by Ellifritz.

An angler found Stahl’s body Oct. 14, 2019, along 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.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email dmaiolo@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

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