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Fielder testifies he didn't kill ex-wife

verdict could come today

November 14, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The attorney on trial for allegedly killing his ex-wife last year and dumping her dismembered remains in Back Creek testified Tuesday that he didn't think police would believe his claim that her death was an accident so he attempted to cover it up instead of reporting it.

"I didn't intentionally strike her," said Stephen R. Fielder, who is charged with the murder of Debra Ann Fielder, 47.

Jurors seated for the 59-year-old Bunker Hill, W.Va., man's trial in Berkeley County Circuit Court could reach a verdict today. They heard closing arguments Tuesday from Prosecuting Attorney Pamela J. Games-Neely and defense attorney B. Craig Manford.

"Look at what he did to this woman ... Look at the lengths he went (to cover it up)," Games-Neely said of the stabbing and dismembering of Fielder's body and attempt to sink it in the western Berkeley County stream in luggage packed with gym weights.

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Describing the woman's death as a "cold, callous, brutal act," Games-Neely urged the jurors to remember the lies to which Fielder admitted on the witness stand that he told police when they questioned him about her death Sept. 7.

Fielder, who was on the witness stand for more than three hours, admitted to using a hacksaw to cut his ex-wife into pieces after she died on Aug. 11, 2006. He testified he cut her up after she fell down a flight of stairs in his house at 9280 Winchester Ave.

Fielder said he knocked her off balance while attempting to stop his ex-wife from locking him out of his house after he told her she could no longer stay at his home.

"She said, 'I'm not leaving, you're leaving'," Fielder recalled before he reached out to stop her from shutting the door.

Fielder said his outstretched arm made contact with her shoulder or head, causing her to fall forward over his left shoulder and down the steps that lead to the basement and his garage-converted law office. Stephen Fielder said he lost his balance, but fell back against the inner wall of the stairwell.

In cross-examination by Games-Neely, Fielder dismissed findings by the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner that indicate his ex-wife was stabbed at least twice before she died.

"She's absolutely wrong," Fielder said. "She doesn't know what she's talking about. I don't know what the medical examiner looked at. I know what happened."

Fielder, however, admitted that he stabbed the suitcase that contained the torso of his ex-wife multiple times after he dismembered her body because he couldn't get the luggage to sink in the creek, even with the gym weight.

Games-Neely later asserted in her closing arguments that the injuries to Debra Fielder's body were "the very definition of malice" and that Stephen Fielder intentionally put more weight in a piece of luggage containing Fielder's head and hands because they could lead to her identification.

Before that, Games-Neely noted that "he allowed her to lay in his home and bleed out."

Most of Fielder's remains were found in the creek Aug. 20, three days after Fielder testified that he discarded them in a deep pool of water before a forecasted storm expected to muddy the stream and make it even more difficult for her remains to be found.

Fielder said his original plan to bury them in the Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area was abandoned because of car trouble that developed near the intersection of Tuscarora Pike and Buck Hill Road. He couldn't find a burial site along Back Creek, either.

"There was just no good place to bury her, so I decided to sink her," Fielder said.

Though divorced in 2002, Fielder testified that he provided his ex-wife at several different occasions with gas money, rent and the purchase of a vehicle, and allowed her to stay at his house when she didn't have anywhere else to go.

"Of the (four) women I was married to, Debbie was the most fun," said Fielder, who earlier noted their mutual interest in music - he played guitar and she was a singer.

Fielder said his divorce from Debra Fielder came about after he discovered a significant amount of money to be missing, which he attributed to her gambling and worsening drinking problem.

Debra Fielder's physician last week testified that "blood work" completed July 28, 2006, indicated she was legally intoxicated from alcohol. She also tested positive for an antidepressant that wasn't prescribed for her and marijuana.

Stephen J. Mallot said he encouraged her to get treatment for her drinking problem, and she agreed that was a good idea.

On Aug. 11, Mallot's wife testified that she contacted Fielder in a follow-up phone call about a treatment program and initially spoke to Stephen Fielder.

Within hours of that phone call, Stephen Fielder said the accident happened.

In his closing remarks, Fielder's attorney told the jury that the state's evidence supports little more than spontaneous or accidental circumstances surrounding Fielder's untimely death.

"He is not the monster the state wants you to believe he is," Manford said.

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