DENVER (AP) — The widow of Colorado's slain prisons director will get the opportunity to speak publicly about her husband's death during a sentencing hearing scheduled Monday for a woman who gave his presumed killer the murder weapon.
A federal court judge was set to sentence Stevie Marie Anne Vigil, 23, who pleaded guilty to buying a handgun used in the killing last year of prisons chief Tom Clements. Vigil faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors say paroled prison gang member Evan Ebel also used the gun to kill Nathan Leon, a Denver computer technician and pizza deliveryman, and wound a sheriff's deputy in Texas, where Ebel fled. Ebel was killed in a shootout with Texas authorities.
Leon's family and the deputy were among those in the crowded courtroom for the hearing. The judge has allowed them along with Clements' widow, Lisa Clements, to testify Monday about their losses. Lisa Clements has been largely silent about her husband's death and it was unclear Monday if she planned to address the court.
Last April, she told CNN that she refused to be angry over the fact that Ebel was released from prison four years early because of a clerical error.
"Much like the incident itself, I could become enraged. For the rest of my days, I could be angry that someone made a mistake and didn't capture what a judge conveyed," she said.
Clements, 58, was fatally shot when he answered the door of his Monument home on March 19.
Authorities have said Ebel, 28, killed Leon two days before by luring him to a remote intersection by ordering a pizza.
With Ebel dead, Vigil has so far been the only person to face a criminal charge related to the prison chief's killing. Although El Paso County sheriff's investigators have not definitively named Ebel the gunman, they have linked the 9 mm Smith & Wesson handgun Vigil purchased for Ebel to both killings. Nearly a year after the killings, investigators have said they are continuing to investigate whether Ebel, a member of the 211 Crew, a white supremacist prison gang, acted alone or if the killings had gang ties.
Defense attorneys have argued that Vigil was unaware of Ebel's criminal intentions and did not conspire with him.
Prosecutors say Vigil, a childhood friend of Ebel's, knew he was a convicted felon and could not buy the firearm himself. She then lied to investigators, saying she bought the gun for herself for protection.
"Vigil put a murder weapon in the hands of a murderer," prosecutors wrote in recent court filings. "While Evan Ebel is ultimately responsible for the shootings, Vigil enabled these horrific crimes by giving Ebel the tool he needed. Lives were lost and families were devastated as a result."
Outside court, Vigil's cousin, Victor Baca, said whoever made the clerical mistake which resulted in Ebel's early release should be on trial.
Ebel was convicted of several crimes in Colorado dating to 2003, including assaulting a prison guard in 2008. He served much of his eight years in prison in solitary confinement, a practice that Clements had been working to reduce. He was released on parole Jan. 28, 2013 — four years early — because of a clerical error. He then removed the ankle monitoring bracelet he was required to wear.