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Stahl homicide trial scheduled to begin in June in Westmoreland County

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Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, 11:32 p.m.
 

The trial of a Hempfield man charged with killing his wife and leaving her body in a field two years ago will begin in June.

The attorney for David Frank Stahl, 43, told a Westmoreland County judge on Friday that more time was needed so two additional experts can be hired to assist the defense.

Stahl's trial on a charge of first-degree murder and related offenses was scheduled to begin next month.

He is charged with killing his wife, 37-year-old Rebecca Stahl, a teacher at Derry Area Middle School, in February 2012.

Defense attorney Donna McClelland on Friday declined to reveal what information she wants to discover by hiring the unnamed experts.

“At this time I am not comfortable discussing that,” McClelland said.

Judge Rita Hathaway ordered that Stahl return to court on April 22 when the reports from the defense experts must be turned over to the prosecution.

District Attorney John Peck objected to the trial delay.

“The commonwealth has been waiting almost two years since this occurred. It's been two years and nothing has been done. We object to the fact it is going to be postponed again,” Peck said.

Rebecca Stahl's body was found on Feb. 24, 2012, wrapped in plastic and blankets in a shrubbery patch, about 25 feet from a road near Arnold Palmer Regional Airport.

Family members had reported to police that she had gone missing four days earlier.

Police contend that David Stahl killed his wife during the weekend of Feb. 18 and 19. Police allege that after the couple argued, David Stahl went out drinking. They argued again via text messages and a third time after he returned home.

In December, Judge Debra Pezze denied a defense request to bar from evidence a confession Stahl gave to police after his wife's body was discovered in Unity Township.

Stahl told police that he returned home to find his wife smoking marijuana. They argued, and he strangled his wife as she attacked him with a knife, according to testimony about the confession given last year during a hearing.

He allegedly kept his wife's body in a shed before dumping it on Feb. 20.

Police said Stahl put his muddy clothing and boots in a plastic bag and placed it in a basement freezer at their home. Police seized that bag as evidence, along with the charred remains of Rebecca Stahl's workplace identification card and driver's license, which had been burned.

Investigators used arborvitae leaves found in the bag to track down the body.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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