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Former Hagerstown man charged in death of ex-Shepherd professor

December 27, 2009|By JULIE E. GREENE and DAVE McMILLION

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- A South Hagerstown High School graduate was charged recently in Florida with suffocating his father, a retired Shepherd College professor, with a pillow.

Robert G. Coffeen, 83, died Dec. 18, according to his obituary from Brett Funeral Home & Cremation Services in St. Petersburg.

Coffeen's body was found in his St. Petersburg home, according to The Associated Press.

Stephen Coffeen, 41, of Davis, Calif., was arrested Dec. 18 and charged with murder in the second degree, according to online records at the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office's Web site. He was being held without bond Sunday at the Pinellas County Jail in Clearwater, Fla.

According to St. Petersburg police, the son claims he suffocated his father in self-defense, the AP reported.

Brad Smith, who was band director at South Hagerstown High School from 1975 to 1994, said he remembered Stephen Coffeen being in the high school's marching band about 23 years ago.

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"I remember him as a real nice guy," Smith said.

Robert G. Coffeen was a World War II veteran, according to his obituary.

He was an associate professor emeritus of English at Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, W.Va., teaching there from 1969 to 1991, according to the Web site for the school, now called Shepherd University.

John Winters, who retired from teaching English at Shepherd in 1998, said Robert Coffeen "was very, very quiet."

"Never bothered anybody. He was just a very amiable person," said Winters, who lives in Braddock Heights, Md.

Stephen Coffeen graduated from South Hagerstown High in 1986, according to Herald-Mail archives and a school yearbook.

Coffeen was a National Honor Society member who participated in the band and Spanish Club, according to the yearbook.

According to Herald-Mail archives, the younger Coffeen was awarded the Madeline Noll Scholarship Award at his high school graduation.

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