Presentence investigation ongoing for 2 suspects in Routt County murder after reaching plea deal
3rd suspect scheduled for jury trial in November
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A presentence investigation is underway for two of the three defendants involved in the October 2019 murder of 26-year-old Elliot Stahl in Routt County.
Brooke L. Forquer and Skyla M. Piccolo-Laabs struck plea deals with the 14th Judicial District in May, according to court records.
The third suspect, William C. Ellifritz, faced the same charges but pleaded not guilty. He is scheduled for a six-week jury trial beginning Nov. 9. He faces four charges, including first-degree murder after deliberation, first-degree felony murder, aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.
His trial originally was scheduled to last three weeks, according to court officials. The extension allows more time for certain processes, namely jury selection which could take longer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
An autopsy report described Stahl’s cause of death as exsanguination — loss of blood — from a stab wound to the neck. The report listed the manner of death as homicide. Stahl’s body showed five additional stab wounds.
According to statements made to law enforcement, Forquer and Piccolo-Laabs said the murder occurred after Ellifritz suddenly got into an altercation with Stahl while the four were driving just outside Steamboat Springs on Oct. 13. 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.
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.
A fisherman found Stahl’s body Oct. 14 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.
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 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 two women are scheduled for a sentencing hearing Sept. 18.
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