HOUSTON — Colorado authorities have arrested a woman accused of illegally transferring the gun allegedly used to kill the state prisons chief, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
In a move sometimes referred to as a “straw purchase,” investigators believe Stevie Marie Vigil, 22, of Commerce City, Colo., legally bought the gun from a licensed dealer in the Denver suburb of Englewood before transferring it to Evan Ebel, 28, a felon barred from possessing a firearm, the CBI said in a statement.
Ebel, who died last week after allegedly using the same gun in a shootout with officers in North Texas, is suspected in the shooting deaths of Colorado Department of Corrections head Tom Clements, 58, on March 19 and Nathan Leon, 27, a pizza delivery driver in Denver shot two days earlier. Sheriff’s investigators in El Paso County, Colo., have said ballistic evidence shows Ebel used the same gun in Colorado and Texas.
The firearms dealer, whose identity was not released, is cooperating with investigators, and had no knowledge of Vigil’s alleged actions following her legal purchase of the gun.
Vigil was arrested after her Denver-based attorney contacted prosecutors. She appeared in Arapahoe County Court Thursday on one felony count of unlawful purchase of a firearm, with her bail set at $25,000.
Attorney Normando Pacheco said Vigil had grown up with Ebel in Commerce City, on the outskirts of Denver. “There was a family association between the Vigils and the Ebels that goes back years,” he said.
Vigil graduated high school in Commerce City, and earned a four-year degree in general studies at a college in nearby Engelwood. Pacheco said his client has no criminal history, that she was “a good kid” who had not owned a gun before and associated with Ebel because of their childhood friendship. He declined to say why Vigil helped Ebel, noting the case has been sealed.
Ebel — who sometimes went by the name Evil Ebel — led a violent life while behind bars and made numerous death threats against correctional officers, according to Colorado Department of Corrections reports released Thursday.
Ebel accumulated 28 disciplinary violations in his eight years in prison, including assault and threatening to kill a staff member and his family. He was convicted in 2007 for assaulting an officer, which added four years to his prison time.
In 2006, Ebel slipped out of his handcuffs and threatened to kill a staff member and that staff member’s family. Also, in September 2005 — seven months after entering prison — he told an officer he would “kill her if he ever saw her on the streets and that he would make her beg for her life,” the documents said.
Ebel entered prison Feb. 11, 2005, as a medium security inmate but within nine months had been reclassified twice as more dangerous and was placed in “max administrative segregation.” Ebel was released Jan. 28 after serving seven years, 11 months and 24 days.
In an online tribute to Ebel’s sister who died as a teenager in a car accident in 2004, a woman who identifies herself as Susan Jody Mangue, the inmate’s mother, wrote in 2010 that her son had spent most of the past five years confined to his cell. She also wrote that Ebel had been in trouble from an early age and that she and his father had tried numerous intervention and boot camp programs.
Special correspondent Deam reported from Denver.
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