Suspect gets 30 years in slaying

November 12, 1996


Staff Writer

Lewis William Burral was sentenced to 30 years in prison Tuesday for his part in the death of Jeffrey Fiddler seven years ago.

Maintaining his innocence, Burral stood in court and faced the Fiddler family, moments before Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell imposed the maximum sentence for second-degree murder.

"I hope the truth comes out and you find out what happened to your son,'' Burral said. "If I knew, I'd tell you.''


A Washington County Circuit jury convicted Burral of second-degree murder last March. Burral, 30, of Hagerstown, had been charged with first-degree murder, felony murder and interstate kidnapping in the Feb. 27, 1989, death of Fiddler.

Fiddler's body was found along an exit ramp off Interstate 81 in Pennsylvania. He had been stabbed to death.

"This murder was quite vicious,'' McDowell said. "There was an 8-inch knife wound in his chest.''

Burral was arrested Sept. 22, 1995, by police in Ohio.

Defense attorney Darah Kehnemuyi introduced a number of witnesses Tuesday, all of whom said they knew Burral as a peaceful, nonviolent man.

"I know he's not guilty,'' said Patricia Hale, Burral's current girlfriend and mother of one of his eight children. "I know a side of him that not everyone sees.''

Washington County State's Attorney Kenneth Long described Burral's history of trouble with the law and with authority.

His first run-in with the law came when, at age 11, he was caught stealing money from parking meters. Later convictions were for drug paraphernalia, weapons, battery and a number of thefts, Long said.

While friends, relatives and a forensic psychologist, Dr. Lawrence Raifman, all said Burral was incapable of violence, testimony from several prosecution witnesses at the trial indicated Burral made statements to them concerning his participation in the Fiddler murder.

One testified Burral told her he was present when Fiddler was stabbed.

Burral didn't take the stand at his trial and spoke only briefly at Tuesday's sentencing.

The Fiddler family also spoke briefly Tuesday.

"It's been seven years, eight months and 17 days,'' said Jimmy Fiddler Sr., father of the victim. "It's the greatest loss anyone could have.''

He described his family - his wife, their son Jeffrey, their other son, Jimmy Jr., and himself - as a pie. "When you take a piece out, it's never the same,'' Fiddler said. "Nothing can ever bring him back.''

Kehnemuyi told McDowell "this is serious business here,'' referring to the sentencing.

But he stressed that the jury's conviction of second-degree murder supports the accessory aspect of Burral's role and asked for less than the maximum sentence.

"This was the senseless extinguishment of a life and the jury found him guilty,'' McDowell said.

Burral was the first of four Hagerstown men tried in the Fiddler murder.

Edward Charles Stouffer, 27, was convicted of felony murder and kidnapping earlier this month. He is being held at the Washington County Detention Center awaiting sentencing.

A judge acquitted James Allen Russell, 29, of all charges.

Harry Dwayne Kellerstapf Jr., 27, was acquitted by a jury.

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