DENVER (AP) — The man who killed Colorado's prisons director was a master manipulator determined to get a gun and enact his longstanding plan for violence, a federal judge said Monday as she sentenced the woman who bought the weapon.
Stevie Marie Anne Vigil, 23, who pleaded guilty to buying the handgun for Evan Ebel, a paroled member of a white supremacist prison gang accidentally released four years early, was sentenced to more than two years in prison and three years of supervised parole. Prosecutors had asked for six years for Vigil, but U.S. District Christine Arguello said they failed to show she knew of Ebel's criminal plans.
Federal prosecutors said Ebel, 28, used the gun in the March 2013 killings of prisons chief Tom Clements and Nathan Leon, a Denver computer technician and pizza delivery driver, and to wound a sheriff's deputy in Texas, where Ebel fled. He was killed in a shootout with Texas authorities.
Vigil, a friend of Ebel's since she was 11, "wanted an intimate relationship with Ebel, and he used that knowledge and information over her to get her to buy a gun that he couldn't buy himself," Arguello said.
But even if Vigil had refused, the judge said Ebel was an intelligent sociopath who would not have been stopped. He had asked others for weapon first. "Nothing would have deterred him. He would have found a way to carry out his longstanding plan."
In red jail scrubs, Vigil showed no visible reaction to the sentence.
The judge issued her sentence after hearing testimony from Texas Deputy James Boyd, who said the gunshot wound to the head he received when he tried to stop Ebel's black Cadillac DeVille, cost him his sense of smell and left him struggling to balance and hear.
Some observers in the courtroom quietly gasped when prosecutors played video captured by a camera mounted in Boyd's cruiser showing the deputy dropping to the ground almost immediately after approaching the car. In other videos, Ebel could be seen firing at and narrowly missing deputies during a chase that reached speeds of more than 100 miles per hour.
Leon's relatives testified that their loss has strained the family and forced his three young daughters into counseling. Clements' wife, Lisa, was expected to speak but decided it would be too painful, prosecutors said.
"Evan Ebel was an evil person," John Leon told the judge as other relatives dabbed at their eyes with Kleenex. "To give a weapon to an evil person ... you had to expect something bad to happen."
John Leon later told reporters the judge had been too lenient with her 27-month sentence.
"We're very disappointed," Leon said. "I can't believe the judge had that kind of logic, that Stevie Vigil didn't know what was going to happen."
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 to both killings and the shooting of Boyd. Arguello said Monday there was no doubt Ebel committed the crimes.
Clements, 58, was fatally shot when he answered the door of his Monument home on March 19. Authorities believe Ebel killed Leon two days before by luring him to a remote intersection by ordering a pizza. Before his death, Ebel forced Leon to read a rambling statement into a voice recorder, that seemed to denounce prison officials for putting inmates such as himself into solitary confinement, according to prosecutors.
Nearly a year after the killings, investigators have said they are continuing to investigate whether Ebel, a member of the 211 Crew, acted alone or if the killings had ties to the white supremacist prison gang.
Prosecutors argued that Vigil's gun purchase set in motion the deadly chain of events, but her attorney Daniel Smith said she shouldn't be punished for his crimes. He noted that her criminal record was spotless beyond a traffic offense and that she overcame struggles of growing up in a broken home.
"While it was Evan Ebel who pulled the trigger, it was this defendant who put the gun in his hand," Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Hosley told the judge. It's an amazing swath of destruction that just one handgun can cause."