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Shafer facing death penalty in murder case

Claude Delmus Shafer Jr. (Buy photo)

By Joe Beck

WOODSTOCK -- A Shenandoah County grand jury indicted Claude Delmus Shafer Jr. Wednesday on a charge of capital murder, the second death penalty case to be filed in the county in the last year by Commonwealth's Attorney Amanda Wiseley.

"This is a death penalty case, you certainly are entitled to have attorneys representing you," Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp told Shafer.

Hupp appointed Edward Ungvarsky, a member of the Northern Virginia Capital Public Defender Unit, to serve with Public Defender Timothy Coyne as Shafer's co-counsel.

Authorities have accused Shafer, 35, formerly of 14447 Old Valley Pike, Edinburg, of robbing and killing Phyllis Kline, 65, of 14887 Old Valley Pike after entering her home near Edinburg on June 14.

Court records say two anonymous witnesses told members of the Sheriff's Office that they saw Shafer covered with blood on the day of the murder. One of the witnesses said Shafer was carrying a knife in his hand. The other witness told investigators of seeing Shafer breaking into Kline's house.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner later determined that Kline had died of stab wounds.

Shafer was initially charged with first-degree murder and robbery but Wiseley dropped the first-degree murder charge at a preliminary hearing. Prosecutors commonly will drop a charge against a defendant at a preliminary hearing in general district court and then revive the same case weeks later before a circuit court grand jury.

Hupp set Shafer's next court appearance for 2 p.m. May 7 before ordering him back to jail.

The death penalty case against Shafer follows a decision by Wiseley to also seek the death penalty against Nicole Miller, a Woodstock resident, who was arrested and charged around the same time as Shafer. Authorities attributed fatal injuries suffered by a 20-month old boy to Miller, who was caring for the victim at the time he was injured.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

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