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Officer: Tamburo had help moving father's body

September 28, 2009|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- A West Virginia state trooper testified at a preliminary hearing on Monday that another man helped load the body of Stephen J. Tamburo Jr. into a truck in December 2008. 

State Police Cpl. A.T. Peer testified in Morgan County Magistrate Court that Tamburo's neighbor, Donnie Younker, told Peer in an interview two weeks ago that Stephen J. Tamburo III, 39, called him in December and told him that he had shot his father and he needed help at his house.

Peer said that Younker told him he knew a body was wrapped in the rug that he helped Tamburo load into the truck at the residence.

Peer testified that Younker has not been charged and that no plea agreement has been made. He said Younker said he did not tell him during earlier interviews because "he was nervous about telling" Peer and that Tamburo III had told him he was connected to the Mafia, and "that was playing" on his mind, Peer said.

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On Sept. 10, Tamburo was extradited from Miami to Eastern Regional Jail in Martinsburg, W.Va., and charged with killing hStephen J. Tamburo Jr. A murder warrant was issued for Tamburo III on July 27 and he was found by the U.S. Marshal's Service in late August.

Tamburo attended the hearing in handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit. He was subdued but interacted occasionally with his defense attorneys, Deborah Lawson and Francine H. Phillips.

Following testimony, Magistrate Kermit Ambrose ruled that probable cause was established at the hearing and the case will move forward to a Morgan County grand jury.

In December 2008, Stephen J. Tamburo Jr., 62, of 970 Shanghai Road in Berkeley Springs, who lived at the home with his son, went missing.

Peer testified on Monday that Jim Fritzges, a friend of Tamburo Jr., told him they worked together and talked on the phone daily. Peer said Fritzges told him that about Dec. 5, he called and the younger Tamburo answered and told him his dad was in a Maryland rehabilitation center for alcohol treatment. When Fritzges called again, Tamburo III answered and told him his stay at the center had been extended.

Peer testified that police could not find Tamburo Jr. in any Maryland rehabilitation center. They also found that his medical card had not been used.

Peer testified that another neighbor, Daniel Oakes, came into his office on Dec. 24 to report "suspicious circumstances" relating to the missing Tamburo Jr. Peer said Oakes told him that on or about Dec. 4, 2008, he witnessed an argument between the father and son, and the father shot at the son with a handgun, but did not hit him.

Oakes told Peer the fight was about money, Peer testified.

Peer said Oakes said he called Younkers and they broke up the fight. Then they helped Tamburo III move his belongings across the street to Younker's house, but he only stayed there for about 24 hours before moving back home.

Peer testified that Oakes told him that sometime after the fight, Oakes said Tamburo III asked him to get some food and the younger Tamburo would cook dinner. At dinner, Oakes said Tamburo told him his father was dead. Peer testified that Oakes told him "he was uncomfortable, and finished up early and left."

Younker told Peer that at another dinner, Tamburo III told everyone that his father was not there. Peer testified that Younker knew Tamburo Jr. was dead because Tamburo III had told him he shot his father and Younker helped move the body.

Peer testified that Denise Francella, a co-worker of Tamburo III at a veterinary clinic in Winchester, Va., said Tamburo told her he caused his father's stress and it killed him.

Peer testified that Berkeley Springs resident William Lynch said Tamburo III asked him on or about Dec. 15 to drive him to Florida in a black Ford Ranger that Tamburo III used. In exchange, Lynch could keep the truck for his use.

The Ford Ranger was confiscated on Dec. 24, Peer said, and during the search, a brick, a tarp and vegetation were found in the truck bed.

In April, a body was found about two miles from the Tamburo home in the Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management area on the Morgan County-Berkeley County line, Peer testified, and that is when the Tamburo case changed from that of a missing person to murder, he said.

He said a blue-brown tarp was found at the scene on the Morgan County side near where the body was discovered.

Receipts for two tarps from Dawson's Home Center on Valley Road in Berkeley Springs were found in the Tamburo residence, Peer said.

Peer testified that Tamburo III was seen on a Lowe's videotape buying two 4-by-8-foot rugs.

Peer was present when the autopsy was performed at the West Virginia's Medical Examiner's Office in Charleston, W.Va., when Dr. James Kaplan found two small-caliber bullets and other bullet fragments inside the body's torso, he said.

Kaplan advised in July that three bullets and bullet fragments had been recovered. He confirmed through DNA testing performed at Marshall University that the body found was that of Stephen J. Tamburo Jr.

Members of the Tamburo family attended the hearing.

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