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W.Va. attorney charged with murdering wife has hearing

May 21, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

The attorney for a Bunker Hill, W.Va., man accused in the grisly homicide last year of his ex-wife said Monday that he was having difficulty obtaining his client's medical records because of a federal privacy law.

After a brief status hearing before 23rd Judicial Circuit judge David H. Sanders, B. Craig Manford said his client, attorney Stephen R. Fielder, had multiple strokes within the last five years and he wanted to determine the mental impact of the brain hemorrhaging.

Sanders agreed to schedule another status hearing for June 4, and Manford said that he hopes to be able to obtain records from two local physicians who treated Fielder.

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Fielder, 58, of 9280 Winchester Ave., was indicted in February on one count of first-degree murder in the death of Debra Ann Fielder.

Authorities have said his ex-wife was stabbed multiple times after she was last seen alive Aug. 11, 2006, and her dismembered body was placed in several suitcases with gym weights and discarded in or along Back Creek in western Berkeley County.

In a handwritten letter from jail dated Jan. 3, 2007, Fielder told a woman apparently helping care for his mother that his ex-wife was killed in the act of stealing from him, according to circuit court documents.

"The result was perhaps harsher than it might have been if I had had time to reflect upon it, or if I had had control of my emotions, or I had been unimpaired by my strokes," Fielder wrote.

"But the reality of things is that I was being robbed and I defended myself. If I did not call the police to report the crime, you see for yourself the effects of that. Twelve to fifteen months in a jail, cut off almost completely from friends and family ... waiting for the opportunity to tell my side of the story to a jury who may or may not believe me."

"It is a lot to go through and a lot to risk if you do not absolutely have to," Fielder wrote.

Fielder began the letter by referencing the apparent sale of a Bowflex exercise machine, the safekeeping of photographs and the sale of his car.

"I am really somewhat ambivalent about selling it at this point," Fielder wrote. "The first thing I will have to do when this is over is acquire a vehicle and I cannot imagine that I will be able to buy anything approaching what I already have."

In the letter, Fielder also said he believed his chances of avoiding indictment were small, but he was more confident about the ultimate outcome.

"There is a small probability that I will not be indicted in February and a small probability that my case will be dismissed before trial, but chances are very good that I will be out before Thanksgiving or Christmas next year," Fielder wrote.

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