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Husband to stand trial in Derry middle school teacher's murder

Rich Cholodofsky
| Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 11:21 p.m.
David Stahl is led out of the Pennsylvania State Police barracks in Greensburg on February 27, 2012. (Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review) guy stahl0225 2
David Stahl is led out of the Pennsylvania State Police barracks in Greensburg on February 27, 2012. (Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review) guy stahl0225 2
Rebecca Stahl
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Rebecca Stahl

The attorney for a Hempfield man who is charged with killing his wife two years ago said on Tuesday that a June trial will focus on her client's state of mind.

David Frank Stahl, 43, is charged with criminal homicide in the February 2012 death of Rebecca Stahl, 37, a teacher at Derry Area Middle School.

“The question is, what was Mr. Stahl's state of mind at the time the incident occurred,” Assistant Public Defender Donna McClelland said.

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

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

Police contend that 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 talking with police shortly after his wife's body was discovered, Stahl said he returned home to find his wife smoking marijuana. They argued, and he strangled her as she attacked him with a knife, according to details of his confession given in a police affidavit.

Prosecutors believe Stahl 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 them in a basement freezer at their home. Police seized the bag as evidence, along with the charred remains of Rebecca Stahl's workplace identification card and driver's license.

Late last year, Westmoreland County Judge Debra Pezze denied a defense request to bar Stahl's confession as evidence during the upcoming trial.

Judge Rita Hathaway ordered jury selection for the trial to begin June 16.

McClelland said the defense has hired a psychologist to assist with the case, but on Tuesday she declined to reveal the nature of the testimony that is being prepared.

The judge ordered McClelland to turn over her unnamed expert's report to the prosecution by May 1.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He can bereached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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