Jury to weigh motive in shooting
Stiver claims deadly force only option
HOLLIDAYSBURG — A Blair County jury will be asked this week to decide if an Altoona man was defending himself or if he intentionally gunned down 58-year-old David Alan Hoover in a church parking lot where the pair squared off after a high-speed chase and a bad drug deal.
John Patrick Stiver II, 35, doesn’t deny shooting Hoover on July 26, 2018, when Hoover came toward him with a baseball bat, defense attorney Kristen Anastasi told the jury in her opening statement Monday.
“This was not a plan,” Anastasi said. “(Stiver’s) only motive is self-preservation. Period.”
Assistant District Attorney Nichole Smith told the jury that Stiver’s actions indicate otherwise.
He may say deadly force was his only option, but according to Smith, Stiver had three options for getting out of the Bethany Lutheran Church parking lot on Second Street between Third and Fourth avenues.
And he used one, Smith said, when he quickly fled the church parking lot in his vehicle, leaving the fallen Hoover behind with a bleeding wound caused by a 12-gauge shotgun.
Much of Monday’s testimony focused on the immediate aftermath of the shooting in the parking lot.
Neighboring residents and visitors were among those who tried to help Hoover.
“He was pale, and he was breathing shallow,” nurse Sheila Peak recalled Monday while testifying in court.
Peak had been at neighboring Jefferson Park for an event where she expected to hand out free snow cones. Instead, she found herself using her bare hands to try to control Hoover’s bleeding. While she readily accepted a towel from a neighborhood resident and a T-shirt from a bystander, she said the bleeding continued.
“It seemed to me that the wound was just too large to cover,” she told the jury.
Dylan Wilt said he had been at Jefferson Park with his children when the commotion at the Bethany Lutheran parking lot drew his attention.
“We heard yelling, and at first, I thought it was kids,” he testified.
But after Wilt got into a position to see, he said he saw a guy with a baseball bat approaching a vehicle. Then he watched the vehicle go in reverse, he said, then “fly down the alley.”
Smith asked Wilt if he saw anything blocking the vehicle’s path and Wilt said no.
Anastasi asked Wilt if he had heard “loud voices,” and Wilt said yes. Anastasi maintains that Stiver warned Hoover not to come any closer with the bat, a warning that Hoover ignored and prompted Stiver to fire.
Smith and First Assistant District Attorney Pete Weeks called 10 witnesses to testify including Altoona police officers who found a red baseball bat in the parking lot. Police also spoke of reviewing video recorded on residential security cameras, but none offered a view of the shooting.
Smith advised the jury that they will see a computer-generated animation to give them a better understanding of what happened in the parking lot.
Anastasi, who is on record against use of the animation in the trial, called it “inaccurate and contrived.”
Smith also told the jurors that as the trial progresses, they’ll learn more about the drug sale that went sour and Stiver’s attempt, after the shooting, to change his looks and conceal his whereabouts from police.
“Some puzzle pieces will be missing, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have enough pieces to see what happened,” Smith said.
Stiver’s trial is being held in the recently-renovated courtroom in the original section of the courthouse built in 1875. As part of the renovations, the county secured a new sound system, which occasionally allows voices to drop for no immediately apparent reason.
Judge Timothy M. Sullivan, who is presiding over the trial, said he has already learned to address this matter by speaking closely to his microphone. He offered reminders to trial participants to do the same.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.