Jury finds Stiver guilty on all charges
HOLLIDAYSBURG — A 35-year-old Altoona man faces life in prison based on a first-degree murder conviction handed down Friday in Blair County Court.
John Patrick Stiver II showed no emotion upon hearing the guilty verdicts for first-degree murder and related charges in the 2018 death of David M. Hoover of Altoona.
When Judge Timothy M. Sullivan began a poll of each juror to ask if they agreed with the verdicts rendered, Stiver’s eyebrows lifted a bit as he looked toward the jury and watched each answer.
By the time Sullivan finished, Stiver’s head was bowed. Minutes later, sheriff deputies were escorting him back to the Blair County Prison.
Sentencing is set for April 21.
“We’re very pleased that we got a first-degree murder conviction because the conduct that comes along with drug trafficking in this community is something that simply can’t be tolerated,” First Assistant District Attorney Pete Weeks said after court concluded.
Defense attorney Kristen Anastasi tried during the five-day trial to convince the jurors that Stiver acted in self-defense by firing a 12-gage shotgun at Hoover, striking him in the neck and severing a cartoid artery.
Witnesses said Hoover was carrying a baseball bat as he approached Stiver’s car on July 26, 2018, in the parking lot of Bethany Lutheran Church at Second Street and Third Avenue. Some also testified that Hoover had a gun, but others said he didn’t.
Witness testimony indicated that the confrontation developed from a drug deal that soured earlier in the day when Edward “Cowboy” Clemens of Altoona failed to deliver cocaine for which Hoover paid $250.
Hoover and a friend, Mark Adams of Altoona, were riding around Altoona looking for Clemens when they spotted him in an alley with Stiver and Dillion Bryan. Subsequently, Hoover and Adams were chasing Stiver’s vehicle, with Stiver able to get away and pull into the church parking lot.
By the time Hoover and Adams found Stiver’s vehicle in the lot, only Stiver and Bryan were in the vehicle. Bryan, 23, said he was scared by threats made by Hoover and because Adams pulled in behind Stiver’s vehicle.
Testimony and evidence indicated that Stiver was able to back up his vehicle at some point, just before taking aim at Hoover and shooting.
Weeks suggested that Stiver, instead of using deadly force, could have fled the parking lot by driving out the same entrance he used when driving in.
Anastasi disagreed as she tried to convince the jury that Stiver’s motive was self-preservation.
“I’m profoundly disappointed in the verdicts,” Anastasi said Friday night after speaking with Stiver at the prison. “We’re definitely going to keep fighting and pursue appeals because there are a lot of issues with this case.”
In addition to first-degree murder, the jury also convicted Stiver of delivery of a controlled substance, conspiracy, theft, aggravated assault, tampering with evidence and simple assault charges.
Weeks and Assistant District Attorney Nichole Smith praised the work of the Altoona police, Logan Township police, state police at Hollidaysburg and the Blair County 911 Center for efforts leading up to the verdicts.
“This case is an example of fantastic police work,” Weeks told the jury in his closing.
He also praised the people who were at Jefferson Park, near the shooting site, who rendered help to Hoover and who came to court to testify about what they saw and heard.
“You can see from this case and this case alone, how drug trafficking affects not just the people involved in the using and selling of drugs,” Weeks said.
This case, he said, included surveillance video from a Sheetz convenience store, a report of a high-speed vehicle chase through the streets of Altoona and a shooting in a church parking lot, 200 feet away from a community park where parents and their children gather.
“For those reasons, we’re extremely happy that we were able to achieve a first-degree murder conviction,” he said.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.