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W.Va. attorney charged in death of his ex-wife

September 19, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - A Bunker Hill, W.Va., attorney was charged Monday with murder in the death of his ex-wife, whose dismembered body was found Aug. 20 inside two suitcases along Back Creek in western Berkeley County, according to court records.

Stephen Randolph Fielder, 57, of 9280 Winchester Ave., was charged after police obtained a surveillance tape from the Martinsburg Wal-Mart that showed him buying luggage, according to a criminal complaint filed in Berkeley County Magistrate Court.

Members of the West Virginia State Police Crime Laboratory searched Fielder's home Sept. 7 after his ex-wife's remains were found and discovered blood in the home, according to the complaint filed by state police Trooper F.H. Edwards.

Authorities said they positively identified her remains the day before the search.

Fielder was arraigned Monday afternoon in magistrate court on a charge of first-degree murder, court records said.

He was being held without bond Monday in Eastern Regional Jail.

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Fielder was allowed to go to magistrate court for his arraignment and be accompanied by his attorney, Craig Manford, Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said.

"He hasn't gone anywhere to this point, so we were comfortable with bringing him in," Games-Neely said.

Games-Neely declined to comment on a motive in the case.

Manford said Fielder would not be commenting about the case and that Fielder is maintaining his innocence.

"He's made no admissions," Manford said after his client's arraignment.

Manford made reference to the criminal complaint's claim that blood was found in Fielder's home and emphasized there are few other details about the discovery.

"It doesn't say whose (blood it is). It doesn't say it's hers," Manford said.

Manford said a preliminary hearing for his client will be held within 10 days. Manford said he probably will try to get bond set for Fielder next week.

On Aug. 20, Edwards was notified that two individuals found what they believed were human remains while fishing Back Creek near the intersection of Buck Hill Road and Tuscarora Pike, east of the small community of Shanghai, W.Va.

Edwards responded to the scene and met with the individuals, who said they found two red suitcases in the water with what appeared to be human remains inside, the complaint said.

Edwards and a West Virginia Division of Natural Resources officer examined the suitcases and determined that one contained a head and arms and the other contained a torso, the complaint said. Members of the Frederick County (Va.) Sheriff's Department dive team and a K-9 unit searched a 500-yard area in and along Back Creek for additional evidence.

At the state Medical Examiner's office in Charleston, W.Va., deputy chief Medical Examiner Nabila Halkal determined the remains recovered were those of a white woman about 50 years old.

Authorities were able to determine that the remains were those of Debra Ann Fielder, 49, through dental records, the complaint said.

Halkal found a 10-pound, Gold's Gym brand metal weight in the suitcase containing the torso and found a 10-pound weight and a five-pound weight in the suitcase containing the head and arms, the complaint said.

An investigator was able to determine that one of the suitcases was sold exclusively to Wal-Mart by American Tourister, the complaint said.

The investigator went to the Martinsburg Wal-Mart, "recorded the UPC code of the luggage set and the weights" and was able to "pull all the purchases of those items," according to the complaint.

"Only one time did Wal-Mart record a transaction where four weights and the luggage were sold at one time," Edwards said in his complaint.

The transaction happened Aug. 14, and Wal-Mart made a videotape of it, Edwards said.

The investigator in the case viewed the tape and recognized Stephen Fielder as the person buying the items, the complaint said.

Fielder has worked as an attorney in the area since about 1985 and has specialized in bankruptcy cases, Manford said. Fielder stopped his legal work when the investigation began, Manford said.

County and court records indicate the Fielders divorced in December 2002 after seven years of marriage. The record of their marriage Sept. 9, 1995, in the County Clerk's office indicates both were from Washington, D.C. They applied for the license while residing at 1107 Winchester Ave., Martinsburg, records show.

Staff writer Matthew Umstead contributed to this story.

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