DENVER - One year after the murder of Nathan Leon, his family says they are still struggling with their emotionally turbulent reality.
"This should have never happened, but there will be no justice," said Nate Leon's widow Katie Leon. "It's taken me a year to actually say that, but there will be no justice and that’s hard to accept."
One year ago, parolee Evan Ebel, a felon identified as high risk and under intensive supervision, cut his ankle monitor and escaped his parole officer's supervision for days. Ebel was a violent, habitual offender with known prison gang affiliations; however, critical alerts that Ebel was on the run were ignored.
With no one looking for him, Ebel had days to murder two Colorado men. Ebel first shot and killed 27 year-old Nate Leon for his uniform, using it as a disguise a few days later when he murdered his ultimate target, the head of Colorado's prison system, Tom Clements.
Katie Leon and her mother Bernadette Alness spoke with CALL7 investigator Theresa Marchetta about a year without justice, answers, or any sense of peace.
On the anniversary of her husband's murder, Katie Leon wants Nate to be remembered as a loving husband and father. He was a man who she says had a "larger than life smile" and supported his family by working multiple jobs.
Leon remembers the last morning she had with her husband because it was her favorite day of the year, St. Patrick's Day. She planned to make a green cake to accompany the corn beef and cabbage dinner her mom was making for the family. This year will be different, says Leon.
"It's not going to be a day to remember. It's not going to be a day of celebration. It's going to be another night of hell," she said.
WATCH additional video from this emotional interview tonight at 10 p.m.
Particularly difficult for the Leon family is that no one in the Department of Corrections or any other agency has taken accountability for her husband's murder. In fact, she hardly knows anything about her husband's case. When Marchetta asked Leon about the status of Nate's case, Leon did not even know whether it was open or closed.
"They just told us we're positive this is who killed your husband. And that’s where it ended. We haven't heard from anybody since, and that was a month into it," said Leon.
And then last month, Leon received an unexpected bombshell. Without any prior warning from federal prosecutors or other officials, she received a Facebook message from a friend alerting her to the newest revelation about the last moments of her husband's life. Leon first learned from an online news article that Ebel forced her husband to record a message moments before he was killed denouncing prison officials for placing Ebel in solitary confinement.
"It was a slap in the face," says Leon. "My friend sends me over, 'oh did you hear what happened,' then sends me over the article. It was just like hitting a brick wall. You think you can pick up the pieces and start to heal because it has almost been a year."
Leon has not heard the recording, nor does she want to hear it. Instead, she wants to remember the last things that Nate said to her.
The Internet has been both a source of pain and comfort for Leon over the past year. After finding it difficult to locate an in-person grief group whose participants have experienced a loss like hers, Leon has begun to build an online support group by connecting with other families of homicide victims.
Leon says that she has had no healing this year, but remained strong for her 5 year-old twin daughters. She worked hard to ensure her daughters can process their emotions by putting them in therapy and keeping certain words off-limits her in home in order to protect them.
"It's not their fault," Leon wants her daughters to know. "Daddy didn't abandon them. It wasn't Daddy's choice that Daddy's gone, but he's gone. A bad man hurt Daddy and Daddy went to heaven, and Daddy's an angel now."
As a family, they remember their husband and father each day. Leon keeps photos of Nate on her phone, and wears necklaces that remind her of the things he loved. Each Sunday Leon make the pilgrimage to the last place Nate was alive, decorating it for holidays and special occasions. She wanted to make it a beautiful place; a place for peace and healing.
When she goes to the site Leon says, "He's right there behind me when I go out there and I cry. He's right there when I talk to him."
Leon has devoted her life to being a voice for her husband and challenges everyone to "Stop the Violence."