Among those offering their condolences at the online obituary page for Grand Junction's Kathleen Stetzel is a person who notes that the woman everyone knew as Kathy always had a smile on her face, as seen in the photo above. The expression belies the horrific nature of her death, to which her troubled son, Daniel Stetzel, has allegedly confessed. An arrest affidavit quotes him as saying that he stabbed his mom with a screwdriver and strangled her to death with a sheet in a fight over a single cigarette. Additional photos and more details below.
According to Fox31, Daniel's family says he suffers from schizophrenia. He's also been arrested at least seventeen times over the years, the station reveals, with charges against him including robbery and resisting arrest.
There are certainly no shortage of Daniel mug shots. Here's one example....
...and another: Among Daniel's past victims was Kathleen. An arrest affidavit accessed by KCCO-TV notes that he punched her in the face circa 2008, earning himself a five-year jail sentence.
Once he was released, Daniel headed back to Grand Junction -- and after family members reported Kathleen missing on July 22, he became the chief suspect. He was at large for several days, but on July 28, he was arrested by members of the Grand Junction Police Department near a boat ramp at Blue Heron, a section of the Colorado River Trail. Here's a look at the area courtesy of the website GJHikes.com.
At the time of his arrest, a GJPD release says officers found "drug paraphernalia with residue in it in a bag in Stenzel's possession." He initially provided a fake name, but later offered up his real one, at which point he was busted on suspicion of a parole violation, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, criminal impersonation and being a fugitive regarding a warrant from another jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, Kathleen's body was found in the desert about four miles from the family home, in an area where the family had enjoyed target shooting.
Marijuana Deals Near You
For several weeks, Daniel remained mum regarding his mother's death. But days ago, he agreed to speak -- and reportedly admitted to attacking Kathleen after spatting over a cigarette.
"She went a little too far," the affidavit quotes Daniel as saying -- and "out of reflex, I attacked."
In response, he went on, Kathleen "freaking slapped me in the face, like hard." At that point, he said, he reached for a nearby screwdriver and stabbed her" -- and when she attempted to defend herself by choking him, he did so again.
The stabbings didn't kill Kathleen. Indeed, she was still able to speak, reportedly telling Daniel that she was going to call the police.
Upon hearing this statement, Daniel apparently acknowledged losing control: "It all flashed back to me.... You know, when she did this in 2008.... I don't know, I just, I just...I grabbed the sheet -- you know, there was a sheet on the couch -- I just grabbed it and freaking...just wrapped it around her neck and strangled her, I guess. Basically, uh, choked her to death."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Afterward, Daniel loaded his mother's body into his car, drove to the desert, said a prayer over the body and split. He later returned home, but after family members asked him about the sheet, he "got nervous and ran into a corn field" before vanishing, the affidavit states.
Daniel has now been formally charged with second-degree murder. He remains in jail without bond. Here's a look at his most recent booking photo.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.