Cadillac, bullet casings and pizza box link Tex. shooting to Colo. murders
DENVER — Evidence collected after a wild high-speed chase and deadly shootout with Texas sheriff’s deputies collected from a parolee with ties to a white supremacist prison gang appear to tie him to the shooting deaths of Colorado’s prisons chief, according to a search warrant obtained by FOX31 Denver.
The warrant, along with an affidavit filed by Texas authorities, details what authorities believe links Evan Spencer Ebel, who died in a shootout with sheriff’s deputies in Texas, and the killing of Department of Corrections chief Tom Clements.
Of key focus in the affidavit is a 1991 black Cadillac that authorities say Ebel was driving in the Thursday chase that saw the 28-year-old open fire on sheriff’s deputies before slamming into an 18-wheeler, climbing out of the wreckage and opening fire again.
Hours later, Ebel died from a gunshot wound to head suffered during the shootout, leaving behind more questions than answers in a case that has spanned two states.
Ebel’s vehicle, a black Cadillac bears a similarity to the “boxy” car El Paso County deputes said they were looking for after it was spotted near Clements house the night he was killed.
Among the links in the cases, according to the affidavit, are shell casings from a 9mm handgun found at Clements house. They are the same brand and caliber used in the shooting of a Wise County, Texas, sheriff’s deputy, it said.
In the Cadillac’s trunk was a Domino’s Pizza box carrier and a Dominos uniform jacket, it said.
That pizza carrier and jacket are a key reason why Denver authorities are also in Texas to examine the Cadillac.
They are investigating the killing of 27-year-old Nathan Collin Leon, a Domino’s Pizza deliveryman in Denver.
Leon disappeared from work on Sunday and was found dead in the Denver suburb of Golden. Leon’s family said he delivered pizzas as a way to earn extra money for his wife and his three girls.
Investigators tell FOX31 Denver there is a “strong connection” between the killings of Leon and Clements.
One theory detectives have is that Ebel killed Leon in order to get the Dominos uniform. The uniform would then help disguise Ebel so Clements would be more likely to answer the door.
Other questions remain including why specifically Ebel wanted to kill Clements. Did he target Clements because of the prison chief’s crackdown on white supremacist gangs in prison? Was he part of a wider conspiracy to kill Clements? Or was it something else?
A prison conspiracy?
Since Tuesday, investigators looking into Clements’ killing have told reporters they are considering numerous angles.
One is that Ebel, a former member of the 211s — a white-supremacist prison gang — might have conspired with other inmates to kill Clements, Paula Presley of the El Paso County, Colorado, sheriff’s department said.
The Department of Corrections told investigators that Ebel was a prison gang member.
Clements earned widespread recognition for not only prison reforms but for a crackdown on prison gangs, including the 211s.
Citing media coverage of the shooting and its possible connection with the 211s, authorities locked down Colorado’s prisons on Friday, said state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Alison Morgan.
“We are on full lockdown over the weekend, no visitation or volunteer programs,” she said.
Suspect’s troubled past; Family ties to Gov. Hickenlooper
Friday night Gov. John Hickelooper announced he knew Ebel’s father Jack Ebel.
In a statement, Hickenlooper said “I met Jack Ebel some 30 years ago when working for an oil company soon after moving to Colorado. Jack is one of the most kind and generous people I know.”
“His son had a bad streak that I know he tried desperately to correct,” Hickenlooper said, adding that Evan Ebel was released after serving his sentence .
The Ebels, according to Hickenlooper, were devastated by the news about their son.
The governor said he never intervened on behalf of the younger Ebel, and he said Jack Ebel never made such a request.
Ebel had lengthy prison record
In 2003, at the age of 18, Evan Ebel was charged with felony armed robbery after brandishing a gun and threatening to kill a man unless he handed over his wallet, court documents show.
“I’m not playing. … This is not a joke,” Ebel said as he pointed a gun at the victim’s head, according to witness statements at the time.
Ebel pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to three years in prison, serving just over a year.
Just months after his release, he was arrested again. This time for felony menacing, robbery and assault. He pleaded guilty to those charges in 2005 and was sentenced to another three years in prison.
In 2006, while in prison, Ebel was charged with assaulting a detention officer, records show. He pleaded guilty and received an additional four years on his sentence.
Ebel spent five years of his sentence in solitary confinement, Hickenlooper said.
While the governor said he never discussed the younger Ebel by name, Hickenlooper did say he told Clements that he knew someone in solitary confinement.
“One of the things I told Tom Clements was that his family was concerned that it was doing more harm than good,” he said.
That statement is supported by Ebel’s mother, Jody Mangue, who detailed a visit with her son in a post on memorial website she created for her 16-year-old daughter, who was killed in a car accident in 2004.
“Evan is in Canon City, Colorado in CSP, the state prison. He has over three more years left. He has pretty much been in solitary confinement for 5 years. How he has managed this ceases to amaze me, but he has used his time wisely and is quite disciplined, conditioned,” she wrote.
“When we visit, I sit across from him, he in a chair on the other side of the thick glass. He is brought in in shackles. He spends 23 hours in his cell.”
Ebel served his entire sentence and was given mandatory parole on January 28, 2013, according to the state Department of Corrections.
Shift in investigation away from Saudi national
The emerging details about the investigation appear to indicate authorities are shifting away from considering the possible involvement of Homaidan al-Turki, a Saudi national.
Sources tell FOX31 Denver that government officials continue to look into a possible connection between the arrest of al-Turki as a motive.
However, investigators admit they are beginning to “deprioritize” the theory.
Homaidan Al-Turki was convicted in 2006 of unlawful sexual contact by use of force and other charges. Prosecutors said he sexually assaulted a housekeeper and kept her as a virtual slave for four years.
This month, Clements denied al-Turki’s request to serve the remainder of his Colorado prison sentence in Saudi Arabia, records show.
Late Friday, a different high-placed law enforcement source discounted the al-Turki connection to the Clements murder.
CNN contributed to this report.