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Probable cause found for charges in stabbing

September 26, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - A Bunker Hill, W.Va., attorney accused in the stabbing death of an ex-wife faces possible indictment by a grand jury after Berkeley County Magistrate James A. Humphrey found probable cause in a preliminary hearing Monday.

Stephen R. Fielder, 57, was charged Sept. 18 with the murder of Debra Ann Fielder by West Virginia State Police Trooper F.H. Edwards - nearly a month after the dismembered remains of the 49-year-old woman were found in Back Creek by two people fishing.

Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said after the hearing that she expects to present the state's evidence against Fielder to a grand jury in February.

Edwards testified Monday that blood evidence was recovered from the basement of Fielder's home. Investigators also discovered about half of the basement floor had been "freshly" painted, and blood splatter was found on the wall down the staircase leading to the basement, Edwards said.

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The blood evidence, samples of carpet taken from the victim's 1994 Volkswagen Jetta and a couple of knives found in a storage unit used by Fielder are being analyzed, Edwards testified.

Defense attorney B. Craig Manford did not call any witnesses to testify.

State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations Cpl. Brian Bean also testified.

A 17-foot canoe that police learned once was for sale in Fielder's front yard, but since given to an Inwood, W.Va., family, also was examined by crime scene investigators, Edwards said. Debra Ann Fielder's vehicle had been taken to an Inwood auto business, police learned.

Edwards said that police are attempting to find a murder weapon. He also said that investigators found a third suitcase containing remains of Fielder's ex-wife.

The three suitcases were part of a red, four-piece set manufactured by American Tourister and sold exclusively at Wal-Mart stores, Bean testified.

The smallest of the four still has not been found, but Bean played four clips of surveillance footage in Magistrate Court showing a man purchasing the set along with four Gold's Gym brand weights the night of Aug. 14. The metal plates apparently were used in an attempt to sink the suitcases in the creek, but the suitcases were found only partially submerged when a man and his girlfriend paddling downstream in a canoe came upon the luggage, Edwards said. One suitcase was found about three-tenths of a mile south of the bridge and the second was about 30 yards south of the other.

On Aug. 11, Debra Ann Fielder was last seen alive while having her car inspected at Richard's Auto Shop off Buck Hill Road, where she told an employee she was staying at her ex-husband's residence at 9280 Winchester Ave., Edwards said.

Fielder also told her doctor Aug. 11 that she was residing at her ex-husband's home, Edwards said. He could not exactly say when she first moved into the home when cross-examined by Manford.

Bean said he learned that before returning to her ex-husband's home, Fielder was residing with another man in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., and then moved to Glengary, W.Va., before again relocating to Clarke County, Va., where she was living in a bus and then a motel.

After renting a place in Gerrardstown, W.Va., didn't work out, she moved into Fielder's home, Bean said. The man she had been staying with was investigated extensively, but Bean said police had established his whereabouts "pretty much every day in August."

People who knew Fielder, told police she "lived hard," but Bean said he had yet to find someone who knew of any drug addictions. Police did determine she was adopted and had no children.

Investigators couldn't find any record of Fielder residing in North Carolina as her ex-husband apparently told police.

Stephen Fielder also allegedly told investigators that he last saw his ex-wife get into a vehicle of someone he didn't know while he was mowing the grass.

The investigating trooper also could not say Monday exactly when Fielder died.

Officials have said she was stabbed multiple times and Edwards testified that a scar on Fielder's torso from an appendectomy and dental records helped identify her badly decomposed remains.

County and court records indicate the Fielders divorced in December 2002 after seven years of marriage and he remarried in June 2003 and Edwards noted the accused had more than one ex-wife. Fielder's license to practice law has been suspended since Aug. 2005, records maintained by the West Virginia State Bar's Office of Disciplinary Council show.

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