Probable cause found in Cabell murder case; defendant to be released
HUNTINGTON - While a magistrate judge ruled Thursday there was enough evidence for a Barboursville murder case to be turned over to a grand jury, the murder suspect could soon be out of jail on home confinement.
Armel Kent Stutler, 66, of Ona, is facing one count of first-degree murder after he shot Philip Boggs, 70, to death at his Barboursville home Oct. 23 in the 5200 block of Heath Creek Road.
During a preliminary evidence hearing Thursday, defense attorney Abe Saad said the shooting had occurred in self-defense after the defendant was unexpectedly attacked by Boggs when he arrived at Boggs’ home to retrieve his mother for an appointment with an attorney regarding Boggs allegedly stealing money from his mother.
“Mr. Stutler went over there to take legal action, not physical action, to retrieve his mother,” he said. “Mr. Boggs realized the gig was up, the financial flexibility he had with Mrs. Stutler.”
However, assistant prosecutor Ryan Hamady said the shooting had been premeditated because Stutler had been enraged that day.
“These documents in his truck show the motive and the purpose,” he said. “He said he was going there basically to take his mother away. What actually happened was he got to the door, got into a fight and he killed this victim.”
Cabell Magistrate Johnny McCallister found enough evidence in the case Thursday for it to be turned over for possible indictment by a grand jury, while also acknowledging Stutler’s viable defense of the incident being self-defense. McCallister ruled Stutler could be released on home confinement once approved by home confinement staff.
However, after Thursday’s hearing, prosecutors filed a motion to block McCallister’s ruling, to which Saad filed an objection. The sides will meet at a hearing Tuesday, Dec. 18, where a circuit court judge will rule on the motion.
For much of the preliminary hearing, Stutler sat quietly with his palms and fingers pressed together toward his face as if he were praying.
According to testimony Thursday from West Virginia State Trooper S.D. Brody, Stutler called Cabell County 911 to report the shooting in the afternoon. When officers arrived, Stutler was still on scene and was taken into custody, along with the firearm used to kill Boggs and banking records from Stutler’s mother’s account found in his vehicle.
The banking records found in his vehicle indicated Boggs had been writing checks to himself from the woman’s banking account.
Hamady said the shooting was premeditated since Stutler became outraged at that information. However, Saad said Stutler had known about the alleged fraud for more than a year and was just trying to take care of the issue that day, with no violence in mind.
Brody said Boggs, who had been shot in the chest and hip, was still alive when he arrived. He attempted to work on Boggs with a trauma kit before an ambulance arrived, but his efforts were unsuccessful.
Stutler’s mother told police Stutler arrived at the home and banged loudly on the door before Boggs opened the door. She said Stutler and Boggs started to attack each other before Stutler shot Boggs. She specifically told police, “Kent shot him. Kent murdered him,” Brody said.
Saad has since interviewed Stutler’s mother, and her story changed, he said, when presenting a CD with a recording of her interview, stating Boggs had been the aggressor. Saad said the woman was hospitalized after the shooting. A test done there showed she has dementia and lacks capacity to take care of herself.
In his version of events, Stutler told police that when Boggs opened the door, he said he had “no business being there” before he slapped Boggs and choked him while bending him over a banister of the front porch, about nine feet off the ground. He said Boggs said he was going to kill him, so he pulled out his weapon and twice shot Boggs.
“If someone was choking someone to the point they thought they would die, isn’t that self-defense?” Saad said.
Brody noted that everything on the porch, including two small Christmas trees, did not appear to be disturbed. Hamady said this was because the fight described by Stutler had not occurred.
To show a confrontation had occurred, Saad submitted several photos taken of Stutler by Western Regional Jail officials showing bruising on his neck, arms and ear, which was also bleeding at the time of his arrest. Saad said his client has a disability that would make it difficult for him to fight someone if attacked.
Hamady said the bruising could have been a result of troopers taking Stutler into custody after showing him being taken to the ground along a gravel driveway.
Stutler was taken to the State Police Huntington detachment, where he was interviewed by troopers. Brody said Stutler had said he murdered Boggs before later changing his statement to say it was done in self-defense.
In the end, state police found that Stutler had been the aggressor in the attack, Brody said.
Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.