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Woman in court over gun tied to Colorado prison chief's death

| Thursday, March 28, 2013, 9:48 p.m.

DENVER — Behind bars, he was known as “Ebel Evil.”

Within a day of arriving at his first permanent prison, Evan Spencer Ebel, the suspect in last week's slaying of Colorado's prisons chief, got into a fight. Six months later, he told a female guard “that he would kill her if he ever saw her on the streets, and that he would make her beg for her life,” according to prison records released on Thursday.

That was one of 28 violations he racked up during his time behind bars, most of which was spent in solitary confinement. When Ebel was released Jan. 28 after serving his sentence — with a swastika tattooed on his stomach and the word “hate” on one of his hands — prisons officials warned he had a high chance of reoffending.

Two months later, Ebel died in a shootout with Texas authorities. The gun he used was the same one that killed prison chief Tom Clements on March 19. Police also have linked Ebel to the slaying of a pizza delivery man just before that.

On Thursday, the woman who authorities believe gave Ebel his pistol, Stevie Marie Vigil, 22, appeared in court on charges of illegally giving a convicted felon a firearm. Her cousin said that Vigil had known Ebel since elementary school.

“I think he just intimidated her,” Victor Baca said, describing Vigil as a nursing student who hated guns. “Whether she bought the gun for protection because he possibly was going to hurt her, I don't know.”

The details on Ebel's eight years behind bars come from his prison record, which was released under an open records request. It shows that Ebel was a member of the 211 Crew, a white supremacist prison gang. The prisons system twice tried to get him out of solitary confinement by enrolling him in special programs designed to help offenders.

Both times, Ebel was removed from the program because of disciplinary problems and sent back to solitary. He was released directly from solitary confinement onto the streets.

Clements, a deeply religious man who believed in the redemptive power of incarceration, was dedicated to limiting solitary confinement.

“It is an unbelievably bitter irony ... the thing he most wanted to change was releasing people from six years of solitary confinement directly into the general population,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said at Clements' memorial service on Monday. “They're considered unsafe to release into the prison population. How can we release them back into the general public?”

Ebel's parents have not agreed to any interviews, but both have said publicly that they struggled to control their son. When he was 12, his mother, Jody Mangue, wrote in an online memorial, they sent him to a series of camps aimed at helping children with behavioral problems.

Court records show Ebel's first brush with the law was in 2003, when he held a gun to an acquaintance's head while they watched a Denver Broncos game and took his wallet. He ended up in prison after being linked to two other armed robberies.

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