CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) – The woman accused of providing the gun used to kill Colorado’s prisons chief was forced by the “wicked” parolee Evan Ebel to turn over the weapon, her attorney said Tuesday.
“She was told to do it or else,” defense attorney Normando Pacheco said after a brief court hearing where he entered a not guilty plea for Stevie Marie Anne Vigil.
Prosecutors say Vigil, 22, bought a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun on March 6 and gave it to Ebel, the sole suspect in the March 19 shooting death of state corrections chief Tom Clements.
Ebel, a convicted felon who wasn’t allowed to have a gun, was killed days later in a shootout with law enforcement officers in Texas. A Texas sheriff’s deputy was wounded.
Authorities also believe Ebel was involved in the shooting death of Nathan Leon, a pizza deliveryman in the Denver area, two days before Clements was killed.
Vigil is charged with illegal purchase of a gun and accused of straw buying, or helping a person who’s restricted from owning a gun to obtain one. She is free on $25,000 bond, and is scheduled for a four-day trial starting Aug. 12.
She did not speak in court Tuesday and left without comment.
Pacheco said Vigil’s position is, “I was forced to do it by that wicked Evan Ebel.” Pacheco did not elaborate on Ebel’s alleged threat.
Vigil’s cousin, Victor Baca, has said he believes Ebel intimidated her into handing over the gun. Baca said he knew Ebel since elementary school, and Vigil knew Ebel through him.
Pacheco’s description of Ebel, 28, mirrors the picture that emerged from prison records.
He was known as “Ebel Evil” behind bars, and he once told a female guard “he would kill her if he ever saw her on the streets, and that he would make her beg for her life,” according to the records.
Ebel spent most of his prison time in solitary confinement. He was a member of a white supremacist gang and had a swastika tattooed on his stomach and the word “Hate” on his hands.
He was convicted of several crimes in Colorado dating to 2003, including assaulting a prison guard in 2008.
He was released on parole Jan. 28 – four years early, prison officials discovered later – because of a clerical error. After his release, he slipped the monitoring ankle bracelet he was required to wear.
Clements, 58, was shot when he answered the door of his home in Monument. Investigators have not publicly discussed a motive for the shooting.
Sheriff’s investigators in El Paso County, where Clements lived, say the weapon used to kill Clements was the one Ebel had when he was killed in Texas. Deputies have been investigating whether anyone besides Ebel was involved in Clements’ death.
Denver police have not said whether the same gun was used to kill Leon. Police spokeswoman Raquel Lopez said Tuesday the Leon case remains under investigation.
Officials from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately return a call Tuesday. A Department of Corrections spokeswoman declined to comment on the investigation.
By DAN ELLIOTT, Associated Press
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