Stouffer gets life sentence in 1989 stabbing death

February 03, 1997


Staff Writer

There were no outbursts of joy or anguish Monday when Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III sentenced Edward Charles Stouffer to life in prison for the 1989 stabbing death of Jeffrey Lynn Fiddler.

Stouffer wept, faced the Fiddler family and proclaimed his innocence.

"I know no one wants to hear that," Stouffer said. "They want someone in jail."

Fiddler's parents drew closer to each other, avoiding Stouffer's gaze.

Wright stopped short of imposing the maximum sentence of life without parole, the only sentence Fiddler's father said he would be able to live with.

Wright also imposed a 30-year concurrent sentence for the crime of kidnapping.

"The jury didn't find premeditated murder," Wright said. He said he believed Stouffer was involved in the crime but not necessarily the key participant.


A jury deliberated for five hours on Nov. 4 before finding Stouffer guilty of felony murder and kidnapping.

Stouffer, 27, of Hagerstown, had pleaded not guilty to all charges a week earlier.

He maintained his innocence throughout the proceedings, including at Monday's sentencing.

"I've already been judged," Stouffer said before the sentence was read. "I'm here because of the people I ran around with."

Earlier, James Fiddler Sr. implored Wright to impose a life sentence without parole.

"If that person ever walks the streets again, I want you to explain it to Jeff's daughter, because I can't," he said.

Teresa Fiddler, the dead man's mother, said she can't bear to attend family gatherings, saying her heart just can't take it.

Washington County State's Attorney M. Kenneth Long Jr. had asked for a sentence of life without parole, in part because Stouffer was on parole when the crime occurred.

Stouffer was the second man to be convicted in the death of Fiddler seven years ago. Two others were acquitted, one by a jury and one by a judge.

Key testimony at the trial came from Kathy Argo, a former girlfriend of Stouffer, who said she remembered a night in February 1989 when Fiddler was having trouble with Stouffer and others in a Hagerstown bar where she worked.

Argo, who lived with Stouffer in 1988-89, said Fiddler came to the bar and said there was going to be trouble.

"He told me Eddie (Stouffer) and them were harassing him about drugs," Argo said. The "them'' she referred to were two of Stouffer's three co-defendants.

Witnesses told police they saw Fiddler running near Hagerstown's Public Square as men in a car chased him on the evening of Feb. 26, 1989, court records said.

Fiddler was later confronted in an alley, where he fought two men, but one pulled a knife and stabbed him in the side, court records said.

The state argued that Fiddler, 21 at the time of his death, was killed because he found out about illegal activities and it was feared he would go to the police.

Defense Attorney Arthur Boyce urged Wright to remember that Stouffer always has maintained his innocence.

"He should be given an opportunity to get out of prison and contribute to society," Boyce said, arguing against life without parole.

Boyce said he would file an appeal of the conviction today.

Fiddler's body was discovered by a trucker at 6:30 a.m. on Feb. 27, 1989, in a ditch next to the northbound entrance ramp to Interstate 81 in Franklin County, Pa. He was identified through military dog tags found in his pocket.

After five years of inactivity, the case was reopened in 1995 and five men were charged. The state later dropped charges against one man, leaving four to stand trial.

  • James Allen Russell, 30, of Hagerstown, was acquitted of murder and kidnapping charges on Aug. 23.
  • On July 11, a Washington County Circuit jury acquitted Harry Dwayne Kellerstapf Jr., 27, of Hagerstown, of charges of first-degree murder, murder and kidnapping.
  • In mid-March, a jury found Lewis William Burral, 29, of Hagerstown, guilty of second-degree murder.

Burral was sentenced to 30 years in prison in mid-November.

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