Stiver gets life for fatal shooting
Defense says city man ‘definitely’ will appeal conviction, trial proceedings
HOLLIDAYSBURG — An Altoona man was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole for the fatal shooting death of 58-year-old David Alan Hoover during a 2018 confrontation in the parking lot of Bethany Lutheran Church in Altoona.
John Patrick Stiver II, 35, showed no emotion in court where Blair County Judge Timothy M. Sullivan imposed the state mandated sentence for first-degree murder, a conviction rendered in January at the end of a five-day trial.
In court Friday, Stiver said little and relied on his defense attorney, Kristen Anastasi, to read portions of a statement he wrote. In his statement, Stiver said he has prayed for Hoover’s family.
“I never wanted anyone to die, let alone me,” Stiver said.
Anastasi, who maintained Stiver shot Hoover in self-defense, said Stiver will “definitely” appeal his conviction and trial proceedings.
“The judge had no discretion in the sentence he imposed today,” Anastasi said.
District Attorney Pete Weeks described the case as one illustrating the consequences and collateral damage of drug trafficking.
“If not for these, Mr. Stiver would be free to live his life and Mr. Hoover would be alive today,” Weeks said.
Prior to their confrontation in the church parking lot at Second Avenue and Third Street, Stiver and Hoover had been in separate vehicles, engaged in a high-speed chase through Altoona. The chase was prompted by a drug deal gone bad earlier that day. Testimony indicated that Hoover arranged to buy cocaine from Edward “Cowboy” Clemens of Altoona who was riding in Stiver’s vehicle, but fled from the parking lot after seeing Hoover with the bat.
After Stiver fired the fatal shot, hitting Hoover in the neck and severing a cartoid artery, Stiver fled the scene and was later found by police in a rural area of Homers Gap.
“They had to send a tactical team in to remove the defendant from the tent,” Weeks said.
During the trial, Weeks and First Assistant District Attorney Nichole Smith built their case based on testimony from investigating police and local residents, supplemented by surveillance video and a computer-generated animation used for the first time in a county court trial.
Anastasi challenged the accuracy of computer-generated animation — CGA — and the possibility that the jury would view it as a movie of what happened in the church parking lot.
Sullivan, who reviewed the CGA prior to trial, stressed during trial that the CGA should be viewed “solely as an illustration” to supplement witness testimony, which like testimony, can be accepted or rejected.
After the trial, Anastasi learned of a residential surveillance video that Altoona police failed to collect and was subsequently taped over. It allegedly showed Hoover getting out of his vehicle and heading toward Stiver which Anastasi said could have been valuable in proving self-defense.
Anastasi asked for a new trial but Sullivan, in a ruling Thursday, said the unavailable video wouldn’t have made a difference in the trial outcome. Other evidence indicated that Hoover was angry and carrying a baseball bat when he approached Stiver’s vehicle, the judge.
No one from Hoover’s family spoke during Stiver’s sentencing hearing.
Stiver’s family members, meanwhile, told the judge that Stiver didn’t get a fair trial.
“If my son hadn’t acted in self defense,” Phyllis Sapar said, “then it would have been my son laying on the parking lot that day.”
“We should all be scared if this is what our justice system has become,” Stiver’s sister, Barbara Stiver, told the judge.
The women also took issue with how Stiver was portrayed during the trial and said the man they know is a jack-of-all-trades with a long history of helping others.
“If you called him, he’d be there,” Sapar said.
In response to the family comments, Sullivan said his perception of the justice system is that it works.
“I have no doubt that (Stiver) has done a lot of good things over the years,” the judge said. “But for me, the jury has spoken.”
As for Stiver’s forthcoming appeal, Weeks said he doesn’t expect this case to be unique.
“Even in non-murder cases, the appeals system is set up in a way that allows people to appeal for decades,” he said.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.