Authorities are piecing together a conflicting picture of a man from a good family whose time in prison and ties to a white supremacist group culminated this week in a shooting spree in Colorado and Texas.
Evan Spencer Ebel, 28, is believed to be the gunman who fatally shot Colorado's top prison official, as well as a pizza delivery man.
Blog entries from his mother and interviews with his former attorney depict a man troubled since youth, who was in and out of behavioral programs before landing in prison, and who showed gradual violent tendencies that ended with a deadly shootout with police.
Investigators are also looking into Ebel's ties with Crew 211, a notorious white supremacist prison gang operating in Colorado.
"In my 38 years of being a lawyer, I've never had anyone go so wrong," said Scott Robinson, Ebel's lawyer when he first got in trouble with the law at 19. "So completely, deadly wrong."
Ebel died Thursday in a Fort Worth hospital after leading police on a harrowing 100-mph car chase through Decatur, Texas, that ended with a shootout with Wise County Sheriff's deputies and other law enforcement agents. Colorado plates on the black Cadillac sedan Ebel drove and other items found in the car make him a suspect in the fatal shooting Tuesday of Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements in Monument, Colo., and Nathan Leon, a pizza delivery driver slain the previous week in Golden, Colo., Wise County Sheriff David Walker said at a news conference Friday.
Many questions remained, he said, including where Ebel was headed when he was confronted by police.
"This is an ongoing case," Walker said. "We're still trying to figure out why he was in Texas."
Ebel grew up in a middle-class family in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, Robinson said. His parents were divorced and, in their teens, Ebel and his sister, Marin, lived with their father, Jack. Evan Ebel would attend many of his sister's softball games and Jack Ebel, a well-known oil-and-gas attorney, was also intimately involved, he said. "They had a healthy, safe environment to live in, attended good schools," Robinson said.
But in January 2004, Marin, then 16, died in a car accident - an event that jolted Evan Ebel, Robinson said. He soon began getting into trouble. He was arrested in July 2004, at age 19, on robbery charges and ordered to a halfway house, he said. But later arrests for burglary and criminal trespass landed him in prison. While in prison, he also served several years in solitary confinement.
His father visited him frequently in prison, Robinson said. Jack Ebel went as far as testifying before the Colorado Legislature in 2011 that solitary confinement in the Colorado prison was destroying his son's psyche. When Jack Ebel's longtime friend, Gov. John Hickenlooper, was interviewing a Missouri corrections official for the top prisons job in Colorado, he mentioned the case as an example of why the prison system needed reform. And once Clements came to Colorado, he eased the use of solitary confinement and tried to make it easier for people housed there to re-enter society.
Evan Ebel never mixed with gangs or had a noticeable temper while he represented him, Robinson said. He was shocked to hear of his former client's alleged involvement in the recent killings.
"I thought the kid was salvageable," he said. "I was pretty sure prison would not work out well for him."
Evan Ebel's mom, Jody Mangue, started a blog to memorialize her daughter after she was killed in the accident. The site is filled with pictures of Marin and Evan sharing hugs, Marin's softball team and pictures of the family in happier times. But it also contains blog posts of her visits to Evan in prison, emotionally draining events for Mangue.
"Visits there are intense, emotional. I try very hard not to cry, but I do," she wrote in one blog entry titled "Prison Life."
Later in the entry, Mangue describes Evan Ebel attending behavioral programs since he was 12, in Jamaica and later Samoa, Mexico and Utah.
"Some people may blame us for what has happened to Evan. I can only say that his dad and I had to make hard decisions when he was younger hoping to avoid where he is now (prison)," she wrote. "We did try every approach we could with Evan, but here he is at some point we could not save him from this situation."
According to court records obtained by KUSA-TV in Denver, Evan Ebel was sentenced to probation in 2004 for possessing a defaced firearm then later shot himself - twice - violating his probation. He shot himself in the stomach on June 6, 2004, and was taken to the hospital, then shot himself in the leg three weeks later, according to the records.
Ebel was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2005 after court records show he carjacked a man's car, pistol whipped the driver and crashed the car in Commerce City, Colo., according to KUSA-TV. He was sentenced to serve three years parole after serving his prison time. He was released on parole in January.
"It's a completely awful situation," Robinson said. "I still don't understand why he would have done this."
Investigators are also looking into Ebel's links to the 211 Crew, a white supremacy prison gang operating mostly in Colorado. The gang numbers between 200 and 1,000 members, carries out deadly retributions in prison and earns money running methamphetamine and guns outside prison, said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center. The money is funneled back to gang leaders serving time, he said.
The 211 Crew - named after the California penal code for robbery - follows the "blood in, blood out" tradition, meaning potential members have to carry out a bloody attack to join and only leave in death, Potok said.
In 2005, the Denver County District Attorney's Office indicted 24 gang members and associates on charges ranging from robbery and assault to first-degree murder, according to the indictment. The gang's founder, Benjamin Davis, was later sentenced to 108 years in prison.
In January, Kaufman County, Texas, prosecutor Mark Hasse was gunned down outside the courthouse where he worked. Investigators have not announced any leads or suspects in that case but reports showed Hasse was investigating the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, a large white supremacy group operating in Texas, Potok said. Police in Ebel's case have not found any connections to that case, Walker said.
It's extremely rare for members of the 211 Crew or other supremacist groups to target high-level law enforcement officials, such as Clements and Hasse, Potok said. But if there is a connection to either killing, retribution by authorities will be swift and strong, he said.
"We will see what will amount to a war," Potok said. "Law enforcement will come down on this gang like a ton of bricks."
Contributing: Associated Press