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Fielder considers testifying at trial

Attorneys argue over evidence presentation

Attorneys argue over evidence presentation

October 25, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. ? An attorney accused of killing his ex-wife last year and dumping her dismembered body in a western Berkeley County, W.Va., stream in suitcases he bought from Wal-Mart might testify in his own defense.

"It's my intention, probably, to testify ... But I will make that decision at the appropriate time," Stephen R. Fielder told 23rd Judicial Circuit judge David H. Sanders on Thursday at his pretrial hearing.

Fielder, 59, of Bunker Hill, W.Va., was indicted in February 2007 on one count of first-degree murder in the death of 47-year-old Debra Ann Fielder.

Fielder's trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 6, pending the results of a mental capacity evaluation, which are expected to be known next week.


Also to be decided before the trial are two evidence requests made by Prosecuting Attorney Pamela J. Games-Neely. She wants jurors to see certain photographs of the homicide victim's body and be presented with evidence that allegedly shows that the defendant has had an "explosive temper" in intimate relationships.

In the hearing Thursday, defense attorney B. Craig Manford told Sanders the photographs were "horrific" and would remind the judge of "Friday the 13th" horror movies made in Hollywood and inflame the jury.

"I need to keep these away from the jury if at all possible," Manford said after saying one of the hundreds of photographs taken in the homicide investigation depicted severed body parts laying on a gurney.

Games-Neely argued that the state's evidence presentation could include some of the photographs to show cause and manner of Fielder's death.

Authorities have said Debra Ann Fielder was stabbed multiple times before her body was dismembered and put into red, American Tourister suitcases with garbage bags and weights inside them and dumped in Back Creek off Tuscarora Pike near Shanghai, W.Va.

Games-Neely said she wanted to introduce evidence that she claimed would shed light on Fielder's volatile demeanor with intimate partners, including at least two other women and a letter he wrote from Eastern Regional Jail to a third woman.

"This is not a person who wakes up one day and decides to kill his wife," Games-Neely said.

In other matters addressed Thursday, Fielder through his attorney asked the court for medical attention to remove a cyst from his face before the trial, but Sanders said that treatment decision ultimately had to come from the state.

The court also found itself grappling with how to accommodate a jury pool of more than 75 people in Sanders' courtroom, which Games-Neely said normally only seated 60.

Sanders abandoned his own suggestion of possibly holding the jury selection in the old county courthouse building at 100 W. King St., after agreeing on a plan to contact an additional 20 prospective jurors for duty, but not expect them to appear until later in the selection proceedings and only if necessary.

"Lord knows how deep in dust it is," Sanders said of the old courtroom where he presided before moving into the judicial center at 380 W. King St.

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