Son booked in mother’s death

GJ man confesses to killing, dumping woman in desert, authorities say

DANIEL STETZEL: Had walked away from halfway house in Adams County

KATHLEEN STETZEL: Had warned court that son was schizophrenic

A convicted felon named a “person of interest” in his mother’s death confessed Monday to stabbing her with a screwdriver during a fight, suffocating her with a bed sheet and dumping her partially clothed body in the desert off 25 Road, just four miles from her home, according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed Tuesday.

“I said a prayer and left,” 31-year-old Daniel John Stetzel told Mesa County Sheriff’s Office investigators during an interview Monday, when Stetzel described disposing of his mother, 54-year-old Kathleen Lynn Stetzel.

Records show Daniel Stetzel claimed his mother had attacked him on the night of the fatal fight, the latest in a series of violent episodes between mother and son.

Stetzel was served Tuesday at the Mesa County Jail with a warrant listing one count of second-degree murder in his mother’s death. He’s expected to be advised in court today. State parole authorities have placed a “hold” on Stetzel, which prevents him from posting any bond.

Stetzel has been jailed since his July 28 arrest on a state warrant for escape and methamphetamine-related charges.

Kathleen Stetzel had been reported missing July 22 by her family, who said she was last seen alive around 7:30 p.m. on July 20. Daniel Stetzel, who had been staying at his mother’s home at 773 25 Road, told his family he last saw his mother alive around 9 p.m. on July 20, and that she’d left home that night with an unknown man.

Family members grew suspicious of Daniel soon after the reported disappearance.

When questioned about a missing bed sheet that Kathleen Stetzel kept on her couch, Daniel Stetzel “became nervous and ran from the home (773 25 Road) into a nearby corn field,” the affidavit said.

The mother had told a Mesa County judge in a letter her son is schizophrenic. Arrest records say he was known to local law enforcement as a meth user and was described by a sheriff’s deputy during a 2010 arrest as having “the potential to be very violent.”

While she was gone, Kathleen Stetzel’s Ford sport-utility vehicle was still parked at her home. Aside from the missing white bed sheet, everything else appeared normal inside the house.

Lyndsey Stetzel, Kathleen’s daughter, said Daniel Stetzel had been staying with their mother one or two weeks prior to her disappearance. She suspected her brother was wanted for a parole violation. State authorities confirmed a warrant issued June 26 after he walked away from a halfway house in Adams County.

In-house Mesa County Sheriff’s Office records confirmed Kathleen Stetzel had been the victim of prior assaults by her son, along with other unnamed men.

“Other known male associates have been contacted/interviewed as part of this investigation, but thus far no specific male has been identified as being with Kathleen Stetzel during the evening of July 20, 2014, as described by Daniel,” the affidavit said.

Stained bed sheet

On July 24, two days after her mother was reported missing, Lyndsey Stetzel and other family decided to drive into the desert off 25 Road in a search for her mother, stopping at an area where they once did target shooting. It was there she found her mother’s body, clothed only in underwear and a tank top, the affidavit said. Significant sections of missing flesh around the face, torso and neck were noted.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Robert Kurtzman, with the Mesa County Coroner’s Office, noted in an autopsy that Kathleen Stetzel had a facial bone fracture, which he said was not inconsistent with being punched.

The coroner’s office continues to investigate a cause of death.

When Daniel Stetzel was arrested on July 28, he was interviewed by investigators and denied knowledge of what happened to his mother, changing stories repeatedly. When pressed on details, he ended the interview by asking for a lawyer.

“When Investigator (Peter) Burg told Daniel Stetzel his mother was deceased, Daniel Stetzel showed no outer emotion,” the affidavit said.

Authorities caught a break on Aug. 5 during a search along the Colorado Riverfront Trail, close to where Daniel Stetzel was arrested on July 28. Assisted by the Grand Junction Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team, they found Daniel Stetzel’s backpack, which contained two knives, various clothing and a white bed sheet stained red.

The stains were positive for human blood, the affidavit said.

Everything changed with the investigation last Friday.

The affidavit said Stetzel’s public defender contacted authorities, saying Stetzel wanted to make a statement about his mother’s death “against contrary legal advice.”

“OK, I just uh, I just would like to, I’d like to just tell you, I’d like to tell you that I’m guilty of what happened, or that I’m guilty, that I did it, and uh, that’s all I really have to say, that’s all I wanted to tell you,” the affidavit quotes Stetzel saying during the confession.

Climactic argument

Stetzel said his fights with his mother date back to 2008, when he was paroled from prison to his mother’s home. Stetzel described an incident in 2008 in which he claimed his mother attacked him first, which led him to punch her.

Stetzel told investigators he was arrested because of the incident and returned to prison in 2008 to serve a five-year term, before being paroled again in 2013. Again, his mother offered to let him live with her. Stetzel said they continued to have verbal arguments and she called police at least twice on him.

Although Daniel Stetzel called his mother a “mean drunk,” Lyndsey Stetzel told investigators their mother had been sober since this past January and she’d seemed to change her life with the birth of a grandson, who is now 8 months old.

Daniel Stetzel told investigators his mother started yelling at him on the night of July 20 when he took a cigarette off a table at her home.

“... On this day ... she went a little too far ... out of reflex I attacked,” he told investigators.

After Stetzel claims he was “slapped hard,” he said he grabbed a screwdriver and stabbed her multiple times in the neck.

“Mr. Stetzel said Ms. Stetzel was still trying to choke him, so he dropped the screwdriver and punched his mom in the face,” the affidavit said.

Stetzel said he grabbed a bed sheet, wrapped it around her neck and, “suffocated or whatever it’s called, basically uh choked her to death,” the affidavit said.

He said he cleaned a spot of blood that spilled on the carpet, wrapped his mother’s body with the bed sheet and loaded it into her Ford SUV, drove several miles and left the body behind some bushes off 25 Road.

He returned to his mother’s home and went to bed.

When asked by an investigator what was different from the fight in 2008 with his mother, Stetzel said he was slapped hard and “I got real mad.”

“Mr. Stetzel said he did not want to go back to prison, so it scared him to the point, ‘to strangle her,’” the affidavit said.

At one point, he described his actions as self-defense and stressed he was attacked.

“(Public Defender Megan) Marlatt added that she wanted it known that Mr. Stetzel had said he is having a hard time sleeping because this situation had been weighing on his conscious (sic), so that is another reason he wanted to come forward with this information,” the affidavit said.


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