The Pueblo West View

Letter: Every parent’s nightmare

Jim Stotler is the father and grandfather of a mother and her two children who were killed March 9 in their Canon City home, and the grandfather of a third child who escaped after hours of torture. The following is a letter he submitted to The Pueblo Chieftain.

In memory of our daughter Mandy Folsom, our granddaughter Marissa (only 9 years old) and grandson Mason (only 5 years old):

On the night of March 9, 2014, my wife and I were woken up by a knock on the door. I walked to the front door and looked through the glass. At the door was a deputy from the sheriff’s office. He informed us that a serious incident had happened and we needed to go to the police station in Canon City as soon as possible for further information on a serious matter.

At the police station, we learned that two of our little grandkids (ages 5 and 9) had been brutally murdered along with our daughter. Our oldest granddaughter (16 years old) was able to escape from this monster after being severely tortured for several hours.

Ever since that night when our family and friends heard this horrific news, we have woken up feeling like its going to be another day of going through hell, and it usually is.

I think part of what makes it so bad is the thoughts of how they were so brutally tortured over a period of time and then literally massacred one at a time, probably as the others were made to watch.

I never realized how bad a murder affects family and friends. I have had family members and close friends die, but a murder seems to compound the emptiness and hurt, especially when multiplied by three.

A lot of the people who knew Mandy and the children are also having problems coping with this tragedy. They are trying to recover by going to counseling, etc. Some can’t be left alone, while others are having anxiety attacks.

The kids at Mason and Marissa’s school tried to celebrate knowing them but they mostly cried at the release of the balloons (it’s amazing how many lives will never be the same because of this killer’s action). Our other granddaughter, one who was not involved in the crime, comes over and asks where Marissa and Mason are so they can go out back and play.

What do you tell a child who asks that about her cousins when she is only a few years old?

Life can be so hard at times, and cruel people really make our world more difficult and cause a lot of unnecessary hurt and sadness.

I’ve always been amazed at the differences in people ... Some people would literally sacrifice their life to help another person, and then there are the evil individuals who enjoy torturing and slaughtering women and children, like the inhuman child slayer who murdered this mother and her two children.

... to kill them one at a time, and it appears, while the other family members were made to watch? I’m sorry, but there is no forgiveness coming from me and I can see the death penalty as the only suitable justice, not only for these murders but also because he will likely kill again when given a chance, whether it be in prison or (heaven forbid) if he ever escaped.

Plus we all know a sentence of life in prison seldom means life in prison. And finally, because of the freedoms and rights inmates enjoy at our prisons, they can communicate freely to other inmates who are being released, so when they become friends the one being released can go kill more of the people involved ...

The last time we saw our daughter and grandkids, the weekend before the murders, we took Marissa, our youngest granddaughter, shopping to get her a new Easter dress. She was so excited about going to the family Easter egg hunt we have and loved getting a nice new dress every year for Easter.

Our grandson had a nice suit and was also excited to have Easter at our house and get the chance to play with family and collect Easter eggs.

Instead of going to the Easter egg hunt, we had to bury their severely mutilated bodies in their Easter clothes. Easter for little Marissa, her brother Mason, and their mother Mandy was spent at the cemetery ... buried side by side.

Every day since the day of the murders, including Easter day, has been spent in shock, disbelief and the slow realization that not only were these precious and very loved people taken away from us so violently and cruelly, but that anyone who knew them would never get over this horrific homicide.

Our little grandson and granddaughter, along with their mother, were so mutilated the coffins were sealed so no one was able to see what was left of them, and so of course we had to have a closed-coffin funeral.

Nothing is more heartbreaking than being at the funeral and seeing the white caskets of our little grandson and granddaughter lying next to their mother’s pink coffin. These two little angels were buried side by side with their mother placed in the middle.

I guess what makes it even harder is Mandy was a person who always tried to help other people ... Everyone who knew her knew she was such a good-hearted person. After moving to Canon City, she met an elderly woman who lived down the street who couldn’t get to the grocery store. Mandy would go to the store for this lady and get groceries, often with her own money, and then deliver them.

She couldn’t even kill a mouse in the house, so she would live-trap it and let it go outside.

... Nowadays, some criminals are starting to say they want to go back to prison or that going back doesn’t bother them because life is good in prison. Is something wrong with the penal system when criminals want to commit a crime so they can go back to prison? It is now common to hear the Colorado prison system being referred to as the Comfort Inn for Convicts with a revolving door.

It is safe to say that Dunlap, Holmes, the other two killers on death row, and the sadistic monster who murdered our child and grandchildren will enjoy a good life at the Penal Comfort Inn for the cold-blooded murders they committed, and as long as we continue to have elected officials in state government who are weak on crime, we will also continue to see a rise in murders and drive-by shootings, etc.

These criminals who have killed will wind up killing again, possibly a prison guard or other prison employee, secretary, or they will escape and again slaughter people and families.

One case in point: Recently a murdering inmate named Montour, who was convicted of killing his little daughter, escaped the death penalty and got life in a Colorado prison. He returned the favor by beating a prison guard to death. They did not give him the death penalty for the second murder of the prison guard either, so guess what? You got it: Another life sentence in prison so he can do it again.

Can you imagine the stress prison guards are under now with murderers not being executed and prisons being told to not keep them in isolation lockup? This means they can roam around the general prison populations and people employed in the prison system, not to mention making it easier for them to have a chance to escape and enter our neighborhoods.

... The only way for all of us to remain safe is to enforce the death penalty for all cold-blooded killers because they will likely kill again if ever given the chance — whether it’s a guard at the prison, another inmate, or some family with children if he ever escaped.

... Some people don’t agree with the death penalty, but they don’t understand what it means not to have it available as an option. It is never easy to make such a decision and it is seldom used in this state, but to remove that option would be a terrible mistake for several reasons. Removing the option of the death penalty can make it so much harder on the victims. No, not the ones murdered in cold blood — they have already suffered their terrible fate. I’m talking about the victims who were witnesses, family and friends. You see the death penalty for cold-blooded killers is the best option because it is justice and removes the threat of having it happen again. But if the death penalty is removed, or for some reason the prosecutor doesn’t want to fight to get the death penalty, then the worst that can happen is life without parole.

Without the death penalty the prosecutor can’t go in and say to the murdering trash: “Agree to a plea bargain of life without parole or we will go for the death penalty.” If the prosecutor can say that and the murderer agrees, then there is no further trial and surviving victims do not have to go through all the trial and testimony and relive the horrible event. If the prosecutor does not have that option, then to get life without parole it has to go to trial and everyone has to relive the murders for days, or months, in a courtroom.

Without a death penalty option, the plea-bargaining begins at life in prison and the defendant asks for much less. If a plea bargain is accepted, this murderer will be out on the street again sometime in the future to do it again. Also, without the death penalty there is still a murderer walking around in prison looking to do it again, then maybe a guard or trainer gets killed, or the possibility of escape so people outside of prison will be murdered.

How many of you remember the three murderers in the Canon City state prison that tried to escape? These were horrible, violent criminals and were within a second of getting over the fence into the crowds during a parade. As they went over the fence, prison guards were forced to shoot and kill them. If one of those shots would have missed their target, those murderers would have been among hundreds of people.

People running around saying it is against the Bible and God to carry out the death penalty should brush up on their Bible studies. The Bible’s stance on the death penalty clearly calls for capital punishment in the case of intentional murder.

One example is in Genesis 9:6 — God told Noah that the penalty for intentional murder should be death. “Whoever sheds the blood of man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” God affirmed the death penalty for murder as he made his affirmation of human dignity clear to Noah. The Bible goes on to set the requirements for meeting the death penalty.

I know this is a bit off the subject, but there has been a lot of interest in why United States citizens are buying so many guns. We constantly hear that we are a country of gun fanatics, but I don’t think anyone has asked why gun ownership has been skyrocketing in the last decade. We hear that the government is going to try to take our guns and that criminals are buying guns, but the fact is most gun purchases are for home protection. If you think about what that means, it becomes crystal clear: People are buying guns for their protection, which is a change compared to a few decades ago when most guns were purchased for hunting and sport.

Why has this changed? Simple reasoning will tell you that people no longer have faith in the justice system and that they are afraid of the amount of violence being allowed in this country.

It isn’t just Colorado that has become soft on violent crime in recent years; some of the other states are having the same problems, which means those violent repeat offenders are being released early to come to our state and do it again ...

The repeated light sentencing has created a revolving door where bad individuals are allowed to do it again, and again, and criminals don’t mind going to prison, or being sent there repeatedly, because conditions in prisons are so comfortable and nice with lots of rights and freedom.

How else could a gang in prison still be functioning and still be able to run illegal activities outside the prison? That, coupled with a lack of being able to find information about a person’s violent criminal past, creates an opportunity for someone to move around and continue violent behavior against people with no one ever suspecting it. Hopefully one day soon there will be a national website for all violent crimes to be posted so we could find out whether someone has a violent record.

As for prison life, I really never understood the concept that a good young person joining the military is expected to take orders and sleep in the dirt because it “builds character,” but if a prisoner is sent to a heated canvas tent to sleep on a nice cot or is told to do something like work, it is considered inhumane.

Another problem that is fueling crime, violence and murder in this state and across the country is the use of hard illegal drugs, such as heroin and meth. These drugs and their use are skyrocketing. The underworld that this stuff creates from pushers to addicts produces people who will steal and literally kill to get money for more drugs, and its continued use also seems to dull the human senses for reasoning about right or wrong. Have you ever noticed most violent murderers either are on hard illegal drugs or had been on a hard illegal drug for a period of time?

Something the governor and law enforcement are aware of, but elected officials are failing to act on, is the violent crime of severe beatings and murder against women, usually referred to as domestic violence, and it is being fueled partly by hard drugs. The general population usually thinks of this crime as two people that know each other and live together. That can be a true perception, but the underlying problems are often caused by the fear of retaliation for turning in the abuser.

If you have ever known a woman who has been severely beaten, or worse, but survived the attack, the first thing they tell you is they hope the attacker, or one of his gang members, doesn’t come after her and kill her. The violent abuser usually gets a short time in jail then maybe has to sign a piece of paper saying he won’t go near her (like that’s going to stop them). The attacker generally isn’t even monitored as to their whereabouts after release from jail.

Wouldn’t you think they would at least be required to wear a locator device and have to pay for it for a period of time? Also, if the abuse was bad enough, maybe the attacker should be required to move far away. A lot of severe domestic violence convictions are from men who haven’t just done it once, so if better methods were implemented for first-time offenders, not as many domestic murders would happen.

It wouldn’t take much for our elected officials to change these laws and protect the abused women so why is it that the governor and some elected officials are not doing something about it — anything?

... As for a brief statement to sum it up, please be careful and start electing government officials who will take a stance and create laws that will get violent predators off the street and keep them off the street, and for heaven’s sake, tell the elected officials to keep the death penalty.

Giving murderers and violent criminals a temporary stay at the Penal Comfort Inn isn’t working. Nor does this system of the Inn work for criminals that would rather steal than get a job.

You, like me, are probably so busy in your own lives you don’t take the time to express your opinions to the people we elect when something doesn’t seem right, but please take a few minutes to notify them and tell them you don’t want this violence, drive-by shootings, carjackings, and murders to continue in this state, and for them to make harsh enough penalties so killers won’t want to come here from other states, and convicts won’t want to go back to prison.

Prison officials need to stop early release programs for murderers and people who attempted murder. All it will take is for elected officials to initiate and pass laws so we and our families can live a safer life and begin to have faith that our justice system is working. Please call them now or email them. Without you help this will never change, and remember this when casting your vote at the next election.

Jim Stotler

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The Pueblo West View