Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck wants an appeals court to order convicted murderer David Stahl to repay his slain wife’s family for all expenses they incurred because of her death.
Stahl, 44, was convicted of first-degree murder in June for the February 2012 strangulation of his 37-year-old wife, Rebecca. He has been sentenced to life in prison.
Peck on Wednesday filed an appeal with state Superior Court to challenge a ruling issued last month by Judge Rita Hathaway, who denied a request from Rebecca Stahl’s surviving family members to be compensated for all expenses associated with the administration of her estate.
Hathaway ordered David Stahl to pay $14,000 to cover funeral expenses, but denied a request for $46,000 to pay for repairs made to Rebecca Stahl’s home in Hempfield, as well as legal costs associated with her estate.
“Those expenses were caused by the death of Rebecca Stahl,” Peck said. “It is our contention those expenses should be paid by the defendant.”
During the weeklong trial, the prosecution presented evidence that David Stahl came home from a drinking binge, argued with his wife and then strangled her with such force that he fractured her windpipe.
Stahl kept his wife’s body in the house before moving it to a backyard shed and later dumping it in a field of arborvitae shrubs near Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity, according to police.
Witnesses at the trial said he tried to destroy some of his wife’s belongings and identification cards, then lied to police about her whereabouts when her family reported her missing. The victim was a math teacher at Derry Area School District who was on leave after undergoing surgery.
During a restitution hearing, defense attorney Donna McClelland said David Stahl wanted to use money from his pension account to give to his children from a previous marriage. David and Rebecca Stahl had no children together.
“I respectfully disagree with District Attorney Peck,” McClelland said Wednesday. “The judge was entirely correct with her ruling.”
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or [email protected].