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Hempfield man accused of killing wife wants admission stricken

| Saturday, April 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A Hempfield man accused of killing his wife told investigators repeatedly that he wanted to talk to them, but only after he obtained an attorney, according to testimony Friday.

But during an interview at the Westmoreland County Prison, David Frank Stahl, 42, waived his right to an attorney and told police he and Rebecca Stahl, 37, argued early on the morning of Feb. 19, 2012, at their home before he allegedly choked her.

“He was willing to talk. He just wanted an attorney,” Trooper Robert Burford testified.

Defense attorneys are seeking to have Stahl's statement to police on Feb. 29, 2012, barred from use by prosecutors as evidence during trial.

Public Defender Matthew Schmizzi entered into evidence Stahl's request for counsel. It was received by the public defender's office on Feb. 27, 2012, administrative assistant Dawn Brooks testified.

Burford testified that Stahl indicated during the Feb. 29 interview that he did not have an attorney.

Judge Debra Pezze ordered both parties to file briefs on the matter before she makes a ruling.

David Stahl allegedly drank for several hours at a Whitney bar between Feb. 18 and 19, 2012. Police said he killed his wife sometime that weekend.

David Stahl told police he hid his wife's body at their Seton View Drive home and dumped it on Feb. 20, 2012, at a former nursery in Unity Township. The victim was on medical leave from her job as a sixth-grade math teacher at Derry Area Middle School after undergoing surgery.

David Stahl would later text a fake argument between their phones and burn items belonging to Rebecca Stahl, including her driver's license, according to police.

Rebecca Stahl's family reported her missing on Feb. 21, 2012. Police found her body three days later.

State police talked to David Stahl on Feb. 21 and 22 and took some photographs of his injuries and the home, Burford testified. During an interview at the state police station on Feb. 22, Stahl told troopers he wanted to stop the discussion and get an attorney.

“What he was telling us wasn't adding up,” Burford testified. “So we just started to question his answers ... and that's when he said he wanted to stop.”

Burford testified that he told Stahl repeatedly to contact the trooper if Stahl wanted to discuss his wife's disappearance.

After Rebecca Stahl's body was found and troopers located David Stahl along Roseytown Road in Hempfield, he was taken to Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg, where he spent the weekend. Troopers arrested David Stahl on homicide charges upon his release from the mental health unit on Feb. 27, 2012.

Two days later, Stahl asked a jail guard to contact Burford, according to testimony.

During that tape-recorded statement, Stahl said he wanted to talk because the troopers had been treating him well, according to testimony. On the tape, which was played during a preliminary hearing, Stahl admits to killing his wife.

Pezze declined to recuse herself from the case after defense attorneys requested her removal because the judge signed related search warrants.

“I'm routinely asked to rule on matters I previously decided,” she said. “I feel that I'm perfectly capable.”

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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