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Family still struggles with loss of Jeffrey Fiddler

February 03, 1997

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

James Fiddler Sr., his wife Teresa, and their remaining son, Jimmy, don't think of time as a great healer, only as an endless stretch of days without Jeffrey Fiddler.

Dead nearly eight years now, Jeffrey Fiddler was stabbed to death somewhere in Washington County, and his body was dumped on a stretch of interstate highway in Pennsylvania.

"I lost a brother but also a friend and confidante," said Jimmy Fiddler Jr. "Jeff was my sidekick."

Jimmy Fiddler thinks there is more to know than has been told at the trials of the four men accused in Jeffrey Fiddler's death.

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Two of those defendants were convicted, one was acquitted by a jury and one by a judge. The last to go to trial, Edward Stouffer, was sentenced Monday to life in prison.

Jeffrey Fiddler's father, James Fiddler said last week he wouldn't be satisfied with anything less than life without parole.

Looking back and ahead at the same time, James Fiddler Sr. said there isn't much fun in his life anymore.

"The what ifs are hard to live with," he said, referring to how close Jeffrey was to going into the service when he was killed.

Teresa Fiddler sat through all four trials along with her husband and son. She said she was often angry and hurt but mostly numb as she listened to the testimony, over and over, about the last hours of her son's life.

"The nightmare will never end. Nothing will ever take away the pain," she said.

The Fiddlers say their marriage has grown stronger in many ways following the loss of their younger son.

"It tears some people apart but we talk about him every day," said James Fiddler Sr.

The Fiddlers praised the police and the prosecutor's office for the consideration they showed the family since the arrests were made in 1995.

While struggling with her own loss, Teresa Fiddler said she is most angry about what was taken from her then 21-year-old son.

"They took everything from Jeff ... his life and his dreams," she said.

Jeffrey Fiddler's daughter was born in April 1989, two months after his death.

"And look what she's lost," Teresa Fiddler said. "She'll never get a hug from her daddy."

James Fiddler Sr. said he already has had to answer a lot of questions from his 7-year-old granddaughter. "How do I explain it to her?" he said.

He said the worst for him is thinking about his son's final moments of life.

"It was a brutal, tortuous death, and I can't forget that," said James Fiddler Sr. A Vietnam veteran, he's watched friends die, and that knowledge haunts him.

And then there's the self-imposed burden a father carries when he feels he let his son down.

"I always told my kids that if you tell me the truth, you'll always be OK," James Fiddler Sr. said. "I didn't keep that promise, did I?"

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