By Joe Beck
A witness reported seeing the accused killer of Phyllis Kline break into her residence and emerge later covered in blood, according to court documents filed late Monday by Shenandoah County authorities.
A criminal complaint states that the Office of Chief Medical Examiner issued a preliminary finding that Kline was stabbed to death. Other court documents state she was murdered Friday, two days before sheriff's deputies discovered her body in her home at 14887 Old Valley Pike near Edinburg.
The defendant, Claude Delmus Shafer Jr., of 14447 Old Valley Pike, Edinburg, appeared in Shenandoah County General District Court on Tuesday morning after his arrest the day before. He is charged with first-degree murder, breaking and entering with intent to commit one or more violent crimes, and larceny with murder, rape, robbery or arson; and larceny of a firearm.
Judge Amy Tisinger ordered Shafer held without bond. She said a public defender will be appointed to represent him at the next court hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. June 28.
Shafer, tattoos covering his arms and the front and back of his neck, stood before Tisinger in a yellow jail jumpsuit and handcuffs. Tisinger reprimanded Shafer at one point when he mentioned his girlfriend and looked back toward spectators in the courtroom. The rest of the hearing passed without incident.
Shafer told Tisinger he had no money and outstanding bills of $2,000.
In an interview Tuesday, a man who described himself as a friend and fellow church member of Kline's, said Shafer earned money performing repairs and maintenance around Kline's home at 14887 Old Valley Pike. Jeffrey Fleming said Kline, 65, and Shafer, 35, lived about a mile apart on Old Valley Pike.
Court documents show Shafer has an extensive criminal history dating back into the 1990s. Fleming said Shafer's past did not deter Kline from reaching out to the ex-con.
"She was one of those types who befriended people and tried to give him a second chance," Fleming said. "It was basically to help him out and his two small children."
The criminal complaint filed against Shafer refers to two unidentified witnesses whose statements played key roles in leading investigators to Shafer.
The complaint states that one of the witnesses "made statements against his/her penal interest," legalistic phrasing that usually suggests that such a person is also under investigation.
Sheriff Timothy C. Carter refused to discuss the possibility of further charges in the case.
"We've talked to a lot of people at this time, but that's normal in a violent crime such as that," Carter said.
The complaint states that the witness told authorities that "they were in fear for their lives due to threats made against them by Shafer."
The complaint states: "The source of information states to law enforcement that on Friday . . . he/she went with Shafer to 14887 Old Valley Pike and watched Shafer break into the residence. The source stated that he/she heard glass breaking and saw Shafer walking back to his/her location at the railroad tracks covered in blood. Shafer made the source walk into the residence and go upstairs where the source saw the elderly female on the bed with blood all over her face.
"The source said that Shafer told him/her that if he/she told on him, that's what he would do to him/her. The source said that Shafer took prescription medication and three firearms from the residence."
A second witness also reported seeing Shafer covered with blood and a knife in his hand the same day, according to the complaint. The same witness also told investigators that Shafer had three guns and a bag of prescription drugs with him.
Authorities later recovered the guns and knife after the second witness disclosed their location, the complaint states.
The complaint also states that the guns and knife matched information received from the first witness.
Authorities interviewing Shafer in the Shenandoah County Jail on Monday heard him admit to entering the residence on Friday and seeing Kline's body on her bed in the bedroom, according to the complaint.
Court records list several pages of convictions and charges for Shafer dating back to 1993.
On May 30, 1997, Shafer was convicted in Shenandoah County Circuit Court of 16 offenses, including felony maiming of an animal; two counts of burning an unoccupied building; several counts of burglary; and several counts of petit larceny.
He was sentenced to 29 years in prison, 24 of which were suspended, and 10 years of supervised probation that began with his release date on April 17, 2003.
A few months later, his probation was revoked for illegal drug and alcohol usage. He was ordered to enter a detention and diversion program that he successfully completed on Dec. 31, 2003, only to run into more legal trouble a few months later.
Another drug offense, distribution of hydrocodone, led to an effective prison sentence of three years and two months in September 2004, followed by 10 years of supervised probation.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or email@example.com
Reporter Ryan Cornell, firstname.lastname@example.org contributed to this report