Shafer accepts plea deal

Claude Shafer Jr.

WOODSTOCK — Three years after the lethal stabbing of Phyllis Kline, 65, in her Edinburg area home, Claude Delmus Shafer Jr. has accepted a plea bargain and submitted an Alford guilty plea of murder in the first degree.

Shafer could serve between 40 and 60 years in prison. He faces a sentencing hearing Oct. 7.

Per terms of the plea bargain, Shafer’s charge was reduced to murder in the first degree from capital murder. By entering an Alford plea, Shafer accepts the sentencing of the plea without admitting to any criminal acts.

No members of the Kline family were present at the hearing in Shenandoah Countyt Circuit Court on Wednesday.

Shafer is 38 years old. Thursday marks his third year spent in jail. On Wednesday, Shafer, dressed in a gray and white striped prison jumpsuit with a Rappahannock-Shennandoah-Warren Regional Jail label stamped on its back, accepted the plea deal.  At a minimum, he will be 78 years old upon release from prison.

Numerous hearings dating back to Shafer’s indictment by a grand jury in April 2014 have been held at the circuit court.

Shafer’s attorneys, death penalty specialist Edward Ungvarsky and public defender Timothy Coyne, attempted to contest evidence given when Shafer waived his Miranda rights before accepting the deal from Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Wiseley. The deal stems from events that occurred when Kline was found in her home at 14887 Old Valley Pike near Edinburg at 9:40 a.m. June 16, 2013. Shenandoah County authorities arrested Shafer the next afternoon.

Kline was murdered two days before her body was found, according to court documents. Court records state that two anonymous witnesses told members of the Sheriff’s Office they saw Shafer covered in blood the day of the murder. One said he was armed with a knife, the other said he saw Shafer break into the premises.

Authorities discovered Kline’s body when members of her church, Walker’s Chapel Church of the Brethren, went to check on her and notified the authorities when they thought the condition of the house appeared suspicious.

Court records dating back to 1993 show Shafer has a long criminal record with a litany of offenses, including the malicious burning of property, causing damage to cattle, numerous burglaries and drug offenses.

Staff writer Joe Beck contributed to this report.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or jzuckerman@nvdaily.com