AP NEWS

Home confinement off table for murder suspect for now

December 19, 2018

HUNTINGTON - A Cabell Circuit judge halted a murder suspect’s release after a magistrate judge ruled last week he could be released on home confinement after finding there was enough evidence for the case to move forward.

Armel Kent Stutler, 66, of Ona, is facing one count of first-degree murder after Philip Boggs, 70, was shot to death at his Barboursville home Oct. 23 in the 5200 block of Heath Creek Road.

After a preliminary hearing Dec. 13, Cabell County Magistrate Johnny McCallister ruled there was enough evidence for the case to move forward, but also agreed to let Stutler out on bond because of what the defense had presented as strong evidence of self-defense.

Prosecutors immediately filed a motion to block the ruling in circuit court. After hearing arguments Tuesday, Cabell Circuit Judge Gregory Howard said he would take the motion under advisement, but said Stutler could not be released from jail at this time.

Cabell Prosecutor Sean “Corky” Hammers had argued that McCallister had no authority as a magistrate to set a bond in a murder case. Defense attorney Abe Saad said he felt McCallister’s agreement for home confinement had been a consolation prize because the evidence in the case could have leaned either way at last week’s preliminary hearing.

“Not all crimes are created equal,” he said. “While the (charged) crime itself is murder - it sounds awful, someone died and it’s a tragedy. I can’t take that away - the circumstances that surround that are not your usual circumstances.”

Hammers said prosecutors have plenty of evidence to lead to a conviction.

“We can argue about the facts of this case all day,” he said. “He’s got evidence of self-defense, but we have plenty of evidence of motive and reason for why he did (what) he did.”

Saad said Stutler has no criminal history and has worked as a hairstylist as a career. He added Stutler and his wife have had foster children. He also said Stutler has a disability that affects his mobility.

At the Dec. 13 hearing, prosecutors called the killing premeditated, with Stutler becoming outraged with believing the victim had been stealing money from his mother. Police found banking records in Stutler’s vehicle showing the victim had been writing checks to himself from the woman’s banking account. Stutler had gone to the victim’s home without provocation, they said.

Saad said Stutler had known about the alleged fraud for more than a year and was just attempting that day to take his mother to an appointment with an attorney to discuss her power of attorney. The woman, who has since been diagnosed with dementia, told police Stutler had murdered Boggs and was the aggressor, but later changed her story, Saad said.

Stutler told police when Boggs opened the door at the home where the shooting happened, Boggs told Stutler he had “no business being there” before he slapped Stutler and choked him while bending him over a banister of the front porch. That’s when Stutler pulled out a firearm and shot Boggs twice.

Stutler was taken to the State Police Huntington detachment, where he was interviewed by troopers. Troopers said Stutler had said he murdered Boggs before later changing his statement to say it was done in self-defense, and he was then charged with murder.

After the hearing, Saad requested Hammers present the case to the grand jury as soon as possible, but Hammers said it could be a long time until he receives autopsy and state crime lab reports back, which are needed prior to the presentment.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.

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