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Co-defendant testifies he couldn't stop W.Va. slaying

September 04, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Fred Douty said he was in shock and feared for his life after he saw Anthony Juntilla slit Tina Marie Starcher's throat after both men had sex with her on Memorial Day weekend last year.

"I could not stop what was happening," Douty said on the witness stand Wednesday morning during Juntilla's trial in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

Cuffed and shackled, and wearing jail-issued orange, Douty repeatedly said he was telling the truth about what happened and admitted he had intercourse with Starcher, 40, of Martinsburg, before she was killed.

Douty, 30, entered a guilty plea in June 2008 to felony murder, and his testimony against Juntilla was expected to allow him to be eligible for parole after serving 15 years in prison as part of a pending plea agreement.

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No plea offers have been extended to Juntilla, who like Douty was indicted on charges of felony murder, first-degree murder, first-degree sexual assault and conspiracy.

Starcher's decomposed body was found in a power line right-of-way between Dam #4 Road and Rockymarsh Run near the community of Scrabble on June 20, 2007.

The jury could begin deliberations by mid-afternoon Thursday, Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely told presiding 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge David H. Sanders.

Defense attorney B. Craig Manford did not give the judge any indication he had any witnesses or whether his client would testify in his own defense.

Jurors, however, did hear testimony Wednesday from State Police Trooper L.A. Faircloth, who said Juntilla told him in March 2008 that he couldn't understand why the Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney's office was taking so long to prosecute him because they had a pretty strong case.

Faircloth said he was obtaining swabs of body fluid from the defendant's mouth for DNA analysis when Juntilla was incarcerated at Potomac Highlands Regional Jail near the Romney, W.Va., detachment where the officer is assigned.

Testimony about DNA testing is expected to be presented to the jury Thursday.

Douty testified that he and Juntilla and a few other friends were partying in the hours before he and Juntilla met Starcher the night of May 26, 2007.

"We were out riding around and smoking crack (cocaine)," Douty said.

By the time Douty said he and Juntilla met Starcher at a home along Centre Street on Martinsburg's east side, they had purchased crack twice and smoked practically all of it.

Before spotting Starcher standing on a porch, Douty said Juntilla wanted to "pick up a girl" and get more crack.

"We pulled up and asked if she wanted to come get high," said Douty, who said he didn't know Starcher.

Douty said he, Juntilla and Starcher went inside the basement at 86 Tecumseh Trail, where Juntilla and his now ex-girlfriend, Stefanie Brennan, had been staying.

"After sitting (on the couch) there a couple minutes, he punches her in the face and tells her to remove her pants," Douty said.

After they both had intercourse with her, Douty said Juntilla then punched her in the head and knocked her unconscious.

Her head started bleeding and she went limp, but she was still breathing when she was taken to the first-floor bathroom and put in the tub, Douty said.

There, they started to clean the blood and hair from Starcher's swollen face when Juntilla left the bathroom and returned with a knife, Douty said. Juntilla "kind of" pushed Douty out of the way, grabbed her by the hair on top of her head and slit her throat, Douty said.

When Juntilla turned around and faced him, still holding the knife in his hand, Douty said he was scared after asking Juntilla what was going on.

"I put my hands up in the air and said, 'We're in this together,'" Douty said.

"He had the knife,' Douty said when asked by Games-Neely why he told Juntilla that. "And I just seen what (he was) capable of."

Before Douty testified, investigating State Police Trooper J.J. Bowman acknowledged dozens of occasions highlighted by Manford when Douty had lied to investigators.

Douty said fear for his life and his family's safety kept him from telling police about Starcher's murder. Douty also was wanted on an outstanding warrant for domestic battery.

When asked to recall particular events surrounding her death, Douty said he couldn't be sure of particular details or was unable to recall past statements to police because he didn't like remembering bad events in his life.

"Because you murdered her right?" Manford charged in cross-examination.

"No sir," Douty responded firmly.

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