HEMPFIELD, Pa. - A jury found David Stahl guilty of first-degree murder Friday.
Channel 11 reporter Joe Holden said Stahl was immediately sentenced following the verdict to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Minutes after his conviction, David Stahl was escorted through a basement parking garage to a sheriff's cruiser.
Holden asked Stahl if he was sorry. “Yes,” Stahl said.
On the floor above, Rebecca Stahl’s family broke down.
“We’ll never be able to hold her in our arms again, but she’ll always be with us,” said her sister, Kelly Beltz.
“My sister Becky was treated like garbage at the end of her life,” said her brother, Tom Anderson.
District Attorney John Peck told a Westmoreland County jury there was no doubt David Stahl intended to kill his wife and he asked the 12 women on the panel to find him guilty of first-degree murder.
Peck said Stahl attempted to cover up the crime when he burned Rebecca Stahl's belongings, including her identification cards, and dumped her body in a Unity Township field near Arnold Palmer Regional Airport.
“It's not inexplicable. It's the work of someone with criminal intent on his mind,” Peck said, refuting the defense's characterization of Stahl's actions after the killing.
Defense attorney Donna McClelland asked the jury to convict Stahl, 44, of Hempfield, of voluntary manslaughter for the strangulation of his wife in February 2012.
Peck told jurors that Stahl had abused his wife for years and physically overwhelmed her and choked her for at least 30 seconds.
“He wanted her dead. He wanted her killed. He showed no remorse after he killed her,” Peck said.
Stahl and his wife, a 37-year-old math teacher, had exchanged a series of angry texts over him drinking at a bar before he came home on Feb. 19, 2012, and they got into a violent argument, according to testimony in the five-day trial.
Stahl choked his wife and later dumped her body, which police discovered five days later, witnesses said.
“Ten seconds in the middle of a fight is not enough to make a clear, concise decision,” McClelland told the jury.
In a basement freezer in the couple's home, police officers testified, they found the victim's partially burned identification cards, some of her other personal effects, muddy boots and bits of shrubbery, similar to that found in the field where the body had been discarded, according to testimony.
Before the body was discovered, Stahl went drinking in Greensburg bars, where he flirted with other women and gave away his wedding ring so he would appear unattached, prosecution witnesses said.
McClelland said that Stahl's actions after killing his wife were stupid and inexplicable, but not proof of a plan to kill.
“This is a man who did not intend to kill his wife, was appalled at what he did and wanted to get caught for it,” McClelland said.
Stahl did not testify in his own defense.
Jurors heard a taped confession he gave to police. In the statement, he said he did not intend to kill his wife, a Derry Area School District teacher on leave after a hysterectomy.
Stahl told police they argued over his wife smoking marijuana.
Dr. Cyril Wecht, a forensic pathologist called by Peck, said there were only trace amounts in the victim's blood, similar to the level received while being in a room where someone else had smoked marijuana.
The defense rebutted that evidence with a toxicologist from the Philadelphia area, who testified via Skype, that the level of marijuana in Rebecca Stahl's blood was consistent with use within two hours or prolonged usage over a period of time.
The Associated Press and Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.
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