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Mother of defendant collapses prior to testifying at murder trial

Published August 07. 2012 05:01PM

The mother of the defendant in a murder trial, who is also the wife of the victim, let out a piercing scream and collapsed on the floor Monday in front of the jury box when she entered the courtroom and got a glimpse of her son seated at the defense table.

Court attendants immediately came to her aid and Schuylkill County President Judge William E. Baldwin sent the jury out of the room.

While aid was being administered to Yong Stumhofer, attorney Robert J. Kirwan, counsel for her son, Franklin Stumhofer Jr., 40, who went on trial Monday morning for the fatal shooting of his father, Franklin Stumhofer Sr., made a motion for a mistrial claiming the scene in the courtroom before a jury was prejudicial to his case. The judge denied the motion. Mrs. Stumhofer regained her composure and was able to testify.

The shooting took place last Sept. 7 around 1:30 p.m. at the home of victim, at 6 Log Lane, West Penn Township. Three neighbors testified, but only one saw the defendant appear at the home.

David Osenbach, of 12 Blade Lane, was outside by his garage operating a mower. He testified he saw a black sport utility vehicle (SUV) pull up to the Stumhofer home and saw the defendant go to the front door. He heard two people talking and then heard six rapid shots.

Osenbach said he called out as the defendant returned to his car without answering him, and drove away. Meanwhile Osenbach's wife, who was inside the house, heard the shots, and called 9-1-1. The Osenbachs testified Yong Stumhofer came out yelling her husband had been shot.

Yong Stumhofer testified there was a knock on the door and her husband only opened it slightly. She said she didn't see who was at the door and didn't pay attention.

"They were just talking," she testified, estimating it lasted one minute and a moment later there were shots fired.

John Richards, a contractor from New Jersey who was in the area, received a telephone call from the defendant after the shooting who told him, "I shot pop."

He also told him he was going to look for other people who, "screwed him."

Richards said he then called his sister, who was a friend of the defendant. He testified he also called 9-1-1.

His sister, Kristy Dieroff, testified she had been a close friend of the defendant and that he suffered mental problems after being involved in a serious motorcycle accident which crushed his leg. When Stumhofer walked into the courtroom he walked with a limp.

She testified he was considering committing suicide, that he didn't get along with his father, and that he told her he was losing his mind. He also told her he was going to the police to surrender. She asked him to come to her home or that she would go with him but he didn't accept either offer.

The "other people" he had told Richards he was after turned out to be a brother-in-law, Larry Miller, of Hamburg.

Miller testified when he and two of his workers returned to his garage, located a distance from their home on a mountain outside Hamburg, he saw a black SUV coming down the road from his home. He could not identify the driver. The SUV stopped briefly near the garage and took off toward Hamburg.

Miller testified he was curious as to why the vehicle was at his home and turned his truck around with his two workers still inside and took off after the SUV. He came upon it while it was stopped off the road under a bridge.

Miller said he pulled up adjacent to the SUV and they were separated by less than two feet. He said there were no words exchanged, but the car window of the SUV was lowered and a pistol was aimed in his direction, and he took off and he heard gun shots. None of the shots hit any of the people in the truck.

As he raced off the SUV followed him to the Hamburg police station and then took off. He went into the station and reported the shooting. When he examined his truck he found three bullet holes, one on the side of the wheel well area, a second on the back bumper, and third in a taillight.

Testimony from several police officers completed the day's testimony with the trial resuming this morning.

The officers in the Hamburg police station said they were aware from radio reports of the shooting in West Penn Township. When a man walking into their station, Cpl. Jason Brobts said, "He's the man," and they quickly took him into custody. They said he didn't resist, raised his hands and surrendered peacefully.

Trooper Roy Eiler testified of taking a statement from the defendant, who told the officer he went to his father's home to get some money because he was in dire straights, his wife left him and he was behind in his rent for five months.

He told the officer when his father slammed the door on him he fired the shots through the door. Eiler said Stumhofer was upset and not depressed as his lawyer suggested.

Chief Brian Johnson, West Penn Township police, was on duty when the shooting occurred. He said he responded to the victim's home but he and emergency personnel couldn't open the front door because of the body blocking it. They went around to a side door, entered the building, and searched the house to see if there were any other occupants.

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