KUSA - 9Wants to Know has learned that Governor John Hickenlooper is friends with the father of the former Colorado prison inmate who is being investigated in the murders of the state prison's chief and a pizza delivery man.
Hickenlooper told 9Wants to Know in an interview on Friday that Evan Ebel's father, Jack, is an "old friend."
Jack Ebel released the following statement on Saturday:
I am profoundly saddened by the recent events involving my son, Evan Ebel, and offer my most sincere condolences to all of those individuals and families who have suffered from his actions. I ask for privacy for me and my family during this time as we grieve for the loss of life that has occurred and for all of those affected.
"When I came out here 30 years ago, he and I worked in the same oil company and he is one of the nicest and most generous people I've ever known," Hickenlooper said.
Governor Hickenlooper brought up Evan Ebel (although not by name) during his first press conference after learning of the death of Tom Clements, the Director of the Department of Corrections. His comments about his friend and troubled son came as he recounted the many accomplishments Clements had made since coming to the Department of Corrections.
"When I first interviewed [Clements] we talked about ad seg (solitary confinement). I told him I had an old friend whose son had gone down the wrong track and been put in ad seg for a long time, solitary confinement," the governor said.
<-Watch the entire interview uncut
That friend was Jack Ebel. Hickenlooper told 9NEWS and the Denver Post later in the interview he didn't know Evan Ebel was suspected of killing Clements until the following day.
The 28-year-old Colorado parolee is a suspect in the murder of Clements on Tuesday night at his home in Monument. He is also a suspect in the slaying of a Denver pizza delivery man, Nathan Leon, 27, who disappeared from work and whose body was found Sunday evening in Golden.
Ebel died Friday after a harrowing 100-mph car chase and shootout with police in Texas the day before. The gun found in the wreckage is the same caliber and has the same shell casings as the gun used in the Clements murder. A Domino's pizza coat was found in the trunk.
Hickenlooper told 9NEWS he had no idea Ebel was out of prison and had nothing to do with him getting out of solitary confinement or out of prison.
9Wants to Knows has also learned Jack Ebel contributed to Hickenlooper's 2010 campaign for governor twice, in the amount of $525 each time.
When asked if the contributions had any influence on Ebel's prison time, Hickenlooper said, "What a stupid question. Why would you even ask that question?"
He continued, "I just got through telling you that A. I wouldn't do it. I told you I didn't do it so now you are asking me the question again? That's your choice but you are losing your ability to have access when you treat people like that."
The following is a response from the governor's office:
Every killer has a mother and father, usually with broken hearts. 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.
Although Jack loved his son, he never asked me to intervene on his behalf and I never asked for any special treatment for his son. Based on information we received today, we understand that Evan Ebel served every day of his original sentence and was released on mandatory parole at the end of the time he was ordered to be incarcerated.
The events of the past few days have been devastating for all involved. I am in shock and disbelief about how everything seems connected in this case. It makes no sense. Tom's death at the hands of someone hell-bent on causing evil was tragic in every way. It also now appears Tom's killer may have had another victim. Our hearts and prayers are with Nathan Leon's family as well. We are most appreciative for law enforcement at all levels in Colorado and Texas and are anxious to learn more as the investigation continues.
The following is a response from 9NEWS:
The staff at 9NEWS recognizes that Gov. John Hickenlooper is experiencing an extremely difficult week. Still, our responsibility as journalists is to ask difficult questions of people in office, regardless of the circumstances.
If there was ever a reason to ask hard questions it's in the wake of a murder of a top state official and the suspect's connection to the governor. We believe this is why the governor agreed to our request for an interview in his office this afternoon.
Much of the reaction on social media relates to how many times we asked the governor about his friendship with Jack Ebel. Before the interview, we talked about the need to give the governor the chance to specifically address each of three questions about his relationship with Mr. Ebel so there would be no lingering question about that relationship.
We are all sorry the governor lost his friend [Clements]. It is obvious it has been a difficult week for him and his staff. However, we strongly believe that it is our job to ask tough questions of our elected officials without fear of losing the ability to ask these hard questions on behalf of the public.
I am sure when the dust settles the governor will continue answering the same hard questions from 9NEWS and all journalists in Colorado in the future, just as he has in the past.
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation with The Associated Press)