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Death penalty is option in two Southern Colorado cases, but history shows it's rarely used

Death penalty is option in two Southern Colorado cases, but

CANON CITY, Colo. - A suspect in the triple murder in Cañon City could face the death penalty if convicted.

Jaacob Vanwinkle faces charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault.

Vanwinkle's case is one of two high profile cases in Southern Colorado where prosecutors could pursue the death penalty if a guilty verdict is reached. The other case involves Harry Mapps. He is accused of killing Kim and Reginald Tuttle and their daughter Dawn Roderick before setting their Rye home on fire in November.

The Pueblo District Attorney's Office hasn't decided if it will seek the death penalty. History reveals the death penalty is rarely carried out in Colorado.

Pam Kinslow has never forgotten her son. She pointed to her son Tommy's senior photo she held tightly in her arms Wednesday. She stood in the parking lot where her 20-year-old son was killed. He was shot to death when he returned from work. His killer hasn't been found.

Robert Autobee gestured to photos scattered throughout his house of his son Eric Autobee. Edward Montour killed Autobee at the Limon Correctional Facility in 2002. Autobee was working as a prison guard at the time.

Both Kinslow and Autobee lost their sons to violence, but they have very different opinions of placing someone on death row.

"I think anyone that commits murder should be put to death," said Kinslow.

"At first it's a gut reaction, you want to hurt the person that hurt you or hurt your child," said Autobee.

Autobee has forgiven his son's killer and fought to make sure he wouldn't be put to death.

"The death penalty is nothing but a hate crime and it's a crime against humanity," said Autobee.

There have been 78 executions in Colorado since it was instituted. The latest execution was in 1997 - Gary Lee Davis was put to death for kidnapping, raping and killing a Byers woman in 1986.

Nathan Dunlap is on death row. He was going to be executed for killing four people at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese in 1993. However, Gov. John Hickenlooper stopped the execution by granting a reprieve.

Justin F. Marceau and Hollis A. Whitson with University of Denver's Sturm College of Law conducted a study of the costs of the death penalty in Colorado. The two said in their study that the costs of the death penalty outweighed the benefits. They cited a Boulder District Attorney in their report, who said prosecuting a death penalty case, including trial and appeals, costs $18 million.

Kinslow and Autobee said that money should be used elsewhere. Autobee said that money should be used toward funding the Department of Corrections by adding more staff to make the enviroment inside prisons safer for inmates and guards. He also wants to see problems in the judicial system corrected.

While Kinslow supports the death penalty, she said since it isn't used frequently, it should be eliminated. Instead, she said the money used to pay for these death penalty cases should be put toward hiring more investigators for cold cases.

"Unfortunately I don't think they use the death penalty enough and people sit on death row too long with too many appeals and it puts the family through too much," said Kinslow.

Hickenlooper's office issued this statement in regards to his stance on the issue:

"The death penalty is still an option for district attorneys to pursue and is still the law of Colorado."

There are currently three people on death row.

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