Shooter denied new trial
Stiver faces sentencing today in death of man in church parking lot
HOLLIDAYSBURG — A Blair County judge on Thursday rejected arguments for a new trial in the case of an Altoona man convicted in February of first-degree murder.
The rulings, rendered by Judge Timothy M. Sullivan, clear the way for this morning’s sentencing of 35-year-old John Patrick Stiver II.
Stiver, during a January trial, tried to convince the jury that he acted in self-defense on July 26, 2018, when he fired a shotgun from his vehicle and killed 58-year-old David M. Hoover in the Bethany Lutheran Church parking lot on July 26, 2018.
At the time of the shooting, Hoover was carrying a baseball bat and approaching Stiver. They had been involved in a high-speed chase through Altoona streets after a $250 drug sale went sour earlier in the day.
Following the trial, defense attorney Kristen Anastasi learned of a residential surveillance videotape that Altoona police failed to collect during their investigation.
She maintained that the video would have offered a view of Hoover’s “mannerisms, mood and tone” as he approached Stiver. But the video was taped over and is no longer available.
In a July 7 hearing, Anastasi said the video ranked as exculpatory evidence, a legal term describing evidence that would exonerate Stiver, especially in a self-defense case.
Sullivan, in Thursday’s ruling, disagreed and concluded that the video wouldn’t have made the jurors reach a different verdict, based on the evidence they already had.
The evidence “clearly established that the victim, David Hoover, was brandishing a baseball bat, even possibly striking the … vehicle in which (Stiver) and Edward “Cowboy” Clemens were passengers,” the judge said.
Prosecutors also acknowledged that while police didn’t collect the video that was taped over, they collected other surveillance video offering a wider view. Based on that, Sullivan found no fault with the police investigation.
Anastasi also challenged Sullivan’s decision allowing a juror to remain on the panel and participate in deliberations.
During the trial, one juror advised the judge, outside the presence of her fellow jurors, that she found a defense witness to have no credibility because she thought the witness was “higher than a kite.”
The judge said he didn’t remove the juror because she also told him she was still affording Stiver the presumption of innocence and had not prejudged him.
“We found her testimony in all these respects to be honest and entirely credible,” Sullivan wrote.
Anastasi also challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support a first-degree murder conviction.
In their response to that challenge, District Attorney Pete Weeks and First Assistant District Attorney Nichole Smith referenced Stiver’s actions before and after the shooting.
Police arrested Stiver in Logan Township after finding him inside a tent behind his father’s residence on Homer’s Gap Road. His vehicle was parked amid brush so it was difficult to notice. Jurors watched police video of his arrest, where Stiver refused to comply with verbal commands to exit the tent, forcing police to pull him out.
“We find the evidence is more than sufficient to support a first-degree murder conviction,” Sullivan wrote.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.