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Steven Michael STAGNER






A.K.A.: "Mike Stagner"
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Shooting spree - Suffered from multiple mental illnesses
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: July 5, 2001
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1959
Victims profile: Angelica Toscano, 19; Juan Manual Hernandez-Carrillo, 44; Melquiades Medrano-Velasquez, 23, and his brother, Juan Carlos Medrano-Velasquez, 22
Method of murder: Shooting (.38-caliber Charter Arms revolver)
Location: Rifle, Colorado, USA
Status: Found not guilty by reason of insanity in October 2002. Sentenced to serve one day to life at the Colorado Mental Health Institute

On July 5, 2001, a local drunk, manic-depressive and schizophrenic seemingly reaching a boiling point over the growing Hispanic population in the area, went on a shooting rampage through a trailer park in Rifle, Colorado, killing four people and leaving three others wounded. All victims were Hispanic.

Police said the shooting spree began when Mike Stagner, 42, shot and killed Juan Hernandez-Carillo as he talked on a pay phone outside a grocery. Then Stagner walked across the parking lot toward the trailer park, shooting 19-year-old Anjelica Toscano. She was left in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head. Three days later she died at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction.

Once inside the trailer park, Stagner fatally shot two men sitting outside a small mobile home. Stagner then walked all the way through the trailer park before shooting and wounding three more men, investigators said. He walked back through the park, reloaded and was arrested in the supermarket parking lot.

Hours before the shooting, Stagner spoke about going on a murder suicide spree at The Sports Corner bar, bartender Ted Diaz Jr. said. He said he didn't pay attention to the threats because Stagner had nonchalantly talked about killing and suicide many times before. Earlier in the day, Stagner had been ranting about "hellfire and damnation" at a liquor store near the scene of the shootings, said owner Linda Trujillo. She said Stagner bought a mini-bottle of whiskey and a Gatorade but she ran him off when he started yelling at passers-by. The Denver Post, citing an unidentified source, reported that Stagner had recently been treated for schizophrenia and may have stopped taking his medication. His family tried for about 20 years to have him committed to a long-term-care mental health institution. "We were told that until he did something like kill someone, he couldn't be committed," said Karen Kimberlin, one of Stagner's relatives. Stagner's criminal record includes arrests on charges of burglary, assault, drug possession and driving under the influence.

Rifle is a bedroom community 60 miles from Aspen. The Mexican consulate in Denver released a statement saying the three people who died were Mexican nationals. It said it had demanded an "expeditious clarification" of the crime. Prosecutor Mac Myers said they were investigating whether the shootings were racially motivated and are considering treating them in court as hate crimes. Stagner's public defender declined to comment following his first court appearance.


Mike Stagner

July 3, 2001

A local drunk in Rifle, Colorado, seemingly reaching a boiling point over the growing Hispanic population in the area, went on a shooting rampage through a trailer park killing three people and leaving four others wounded. All victims were Hispanic. Prosecutors believe it was a racially motivated rampage and might treat it court as a hate crime.


Mike Stagner

July 6, 2001

A 19-year-old woman died at a hospital, three days after Mike Stagner's rampage through a Colorado trailer park that left three others dead. Angelica Toscano died at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, a spokesman said. Prosecutor Mac Myers said police were investigating whether the shootings were racially motivated. Stagner's public defender declined to comment following his first court appearance.


Mike Stagner

July 17, 2001

The man who allegedly shot and killed four people and wounded three others at an RV park in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, was charged with four counts of murder. District Attorney Mac Myers said he did not file ethnic intimidation charges, used to prosecute hate crimes, agaqinst Stagner because murder charges carry a stiffer penalty and better fit the case.


Insanity ruling angers

Families of Rifle shooting victims berate the system

By Nancy Lofholm - Denver Post Western Slope News Bureau

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

GLENWOOD SPRINGS - Angel and Modesto Toscano left the Garfield County Courthouse on Tuesday tearfully clutching two brown paper bags. Inside the bags were the jeans, the shirt, the worn sandals and the fancy hair clasp their daughter Angelica was wearing when she was shot to death by a mentally ill man last year. Inside the Toscanos' hearts, they said, was an anger that spilled over following the verdict that Steven Michael Stagner, the man who shot Angelica Toscano, was innocent by reason of insanity.

"If he had killed a dog," Modesto Toscano said in Spanish, "he would have been subject to more justice."

Stagner shot Angelica Toscano, 19, and six other Hispanics in a Rifle RV Park and a grocery store parking lot on July 3, 2001. The others who died were Juan Manual Hernandez-Carrillo, 44, Melquiades Medrano-Velasquez, 23, and his brother, Juan Carlos Medrano-Velasquez, 22. Those injured were Rudolfo Beltran, 30, Efred Marinmotes-Ortega, 18, and Medel Ortega-Venzor, 24.

Stagner's two-day insanity trial left many family members and surviving victims angry at the American justice system. It also left Stagner's mother, Myrtle Stagner, vowing to fight for legislative change in the mental health system that left her son on the streets in spite of 20 years of mental illness and threats to do violence, and 20 years of her trying to get help for him.

"I'm going to try every way I possibly can to get the law changed. We have lived through hell the past 20 years. It's been a long nightmare," Myrtle Stagner said before she was overcome by tears.

At the same time that she was quietly expressing her sorrow for the victims and their families, they were crying out their anger and pain at Garfield County District Attorney Mac Myers in a room across from the courtroom. The testimony of the most high-profile forensic psychiatrist in the country, Dr. Park Dietz, did little to sway those who lost loved ones or who are still recovering from their gunshot wounds.

Rafael Rico, a representative of the Mexican Consulate in Denver, said that lack of understanding is going to quickly reverberate across Mexico.

"The Mexican population is going to have a hard time understanding the decision of the court - a very hard time," Rico said.

Myers said there was no other possible outcome of the case: Five psychiatrists who interviewed Stagner or reviewed his records determined that he suffers from schizo-affective disorder - a diagnosis for those who suffer from both schizophrenia and bipolar illness. All found that he was suffering an acute psychotic episode when he dressed in black clothing, tucked a .38-caliber Charter Arms revolver in the back of his belt, then started shooting strangers.

Dietz, known for his work on cases including the Unabomber, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and the patricidal Menendez brothers, laid out a detailed picture of Stagner's mental illness that spanned more than 20 years. The episodes of mental illness had a recurring theme: Stagner was an avenging angel on a mission for God. That mission was to destroy people he deemed evil.

Dietz said Stagner's illness first manifested itself when he returned from a stint in the Army in 1981 and began referring to himself as Michael the Archangel.

He was hospitalized for the first time in 1983 and spent from several days to several months in mental wards 19 more times before he committed mass murder.

In 1987, Stagner told physicians at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Grand Junction that "I have so much anger inside me, I'm afraid I'll hurt somebody."

In 1995, he was investigated by the Secret Service after making threats against President Bill Clinton. He also said that year that he had a list of other people he was going to kill.

In the days and hours before the shootings, Stagner exhibited bizarre behavior that included telling officers in the parking lot of the Grand Junction Police Department that he was going on a turkey shoot, jumping in and out of traffic at a busy Grand Junction intersection, howling with insane laughter as he passed a stranger on a Rifle street, and yelling at a clerk at a storage facility, "I hate people. I hate people. I hate people."


Stagner remains in mental health facility

By John Gardner - The Citizen Telegram

June 24, 2010

RIFLE — It's been eight years and six months since Steven Michael Stagner was sentenced to serve one day to life at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo (CMHIP) for shooting seven Latino residents in Rifle on July 3, 2001.

Four of the shooting victims died.

The shooting occurred around midnight that night in the old City Market parking lot and across the street at a mobile home park, which has since been destroyed.

Stagner was found not guilty by reason of insanity in October 2001 after two psychiatric examinations found the 1977 Rifle High School graduate to be insane at the time of the shootings. One of the examinations was performed by Dr. Richard Pounds of CMHIP, the other was done by one of the country's top forensic psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz. Dietz had also done similar evaluation on such notorious killers as Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz, Andrea Yates, the Texas woman who drowned her five children, would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley Jr., and killer-cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, which were all found to be sane at the time of their crimes.

Stagner, now 51 years old, remains at CMHIP. It was determined that he suffered from multiple mental illnesses including schizophrenia, bipolar disease, and schizoaffective disorder.

According to Eunice Wolther, Public Information Officer for CMHIP, information regarding Stagner and any progress he's made while at the facility is not public record and is protected by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

What Wolther could say is that the sentence Stagner received is not unusual in these types of cases, and rehabilitation is the goal for any person committed to CMHIP, regardless of the crimes they have committed.

“Mental conditions are like diabetes in that it won't go away, but we want it to get stable,” she said.

CMHIP has an extensive recovery program with the purpose to treat and rehabilitate people with mental instability in an attempt to stabilize them, she said.

While the mental health facility is much more like a hospital than a prison, Stagner is not allowed to roam free and is still monitored by the courts. Wolther said that any sort of movement or change in placement within the facility, or any sort of change in privilege level, must first be approved by the court.

According to Garfield County court records, CMHIP requested that Stagner be allowed to attend a supervised camping trip in August 2006. The request was denied by a 9th Judicial District Court judge. That is the only request that's been made on Stagner's behalf in the eight and a half years that he's been at the facility, according to court records.

The hospital provides a large support group of social workers, nurses, psychiatrists and psychologists, among others, that work with individuals on what is called a “discharge plan.” But how long it takes to accomplish the goal of the plan could take between a couple of years to several decades, depending on the patient and their conditions.

A lot goes into each patient's treatments depending on how well the person responds to the treatment and medications, and how they respond to the support system, according to Wolther.

In “not guilty by reason of insanity” cases, Wolther said that some individuals have been released in as little as two years because they were able to get the mental condition under control, while others have remained in the hospital for more than 40 years.

“It really depends on the individual,” she said.



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