COURTHOUSE — A 17-year-old Skippack boy has pleaded not guilty to charges he allegedly stabbed his girlfriend to death after an argument in a park near the Perkiomen Trail in May.
Tristan Brian Stahley, of the 4100 block of Rittenhouse Lane, waived his arraignment in Montgomery County Court on Friday and entered not guilty pleas to charges of first- and third-degree murder and possession of an instrument of crime in connection with the May 25 fatal stabbing of Julianne Siller, a 17-year-old from Royersford who was scheduled to graduate from Spring-Ford Area High School weeks later.
Stahley, who was 16 at the time of the alleged murder, stood silently in court, allowing his lawyer Tim Barton to speak on his behalf during the brief hearing before Judge William R. Carpenter. Stahley was returned to the county jail where he is being held without bail pending trial.
Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Abidiwan-Lupo explained prosecutors cannot seek the death penalty against Stahley if he is convicted of first-degree murder, which is an intentional killing, in light of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that deemed the death penalty unconstitutional for those who were under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Stahley, a former Perkiomen Valley High School student, still faces a possible sentence of life imprisonment.
However, a life sentence would not be automatic under a June 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that deemed automatic life sentences for juveniles unconstitutional and required judges to consider factors such as juveniles’ life histories and their potential for rehabilitation in fashioning sentences.
“He’s accused of intentionally causing the death of the victim in this case. As outlined in the affidavit of probable cause, he allegedly stabbed her multiple times that caused her death,” Abidiwan-Lupo alleged.
If convicted of third-degree murder, a killing committed with malice, Stahley could face a possible maximum sentence of 20-to-40-years in prison.
Stahley and Siller had been dating “off and on” for about six-to-nine-months at the time of the incident, according to court papers. The couple allegedly drove to the park off Creamery Road where they argued about Siller smashing Stahley’s phone and going out without him, according to court documents.
“Tristan said he used an orange handled EMT knife and stabbed Julianne in the throat and on her body,” according to the criminal complaint filed by county Detective Paul Bradbury and state police Trooper Barry Bertolet. “After the stabbing, Tristan said he then drug Julianne’s body into the woods to conceal her body.”
Authorities alleged the paramedic-style knife was found about 10 feet from Siller’s body.
After the alleged killing, Stahley returned home and threatened to kill himself with another knife shortly after confessing to his mother. Stahley’s father attempted to stop his son from committing suicide and struggled with the teen, suffering scratches to his face and a bite to his hand in the process, according to the arrest affidavit.
State police responded to the Stahley home about 10:21 p.m. for a report of a domestic disturbance and diffused the struggle between father and son. At that time, Stahley allegedly confessed to police and led troopers to Siller’s body.
An autopsy determined Siller died from multiple stab and cutting wounds.
Follow Carl Hessler Jr. on Twitter @MontcoCourtNews.