Prosecutor: Skippack teen should be tried as adult for alleged murder of girlfriend

Tristan Stahley, 16, of Skippack, leaves District Court in Skippack after waiving his preliminary hearing on first-degree murder and other charges Wednesday, July 10, 2013. Stahley is accused of stabbing his girlfriend, Julianne Siller, 17, of Royersford, in the throat, killing her, in May. (Photo by Geoff Patton/The Reporter)

NORRISTOWN — A 17-year-old Skippack boy is not amenable to treatment in juvenile court and should be prosecuted in adult court for the alleged stabbing death of his girlfriend, prosecutors contend.

Tristan Brian Stahley, currently charged as an adult in connection with the May 25 fatal stabbing of 17-year-old Julianne Siller, should not be transferred to juvenile court for prosecution, Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Abidiwan-Lupo, who is fighting Stahley’s attempt to “decertify” the case to juvenile court, argued in court papers.

“The defendant’s actions caused a significant and lasting impact on this community. The defendant is not amenable to treatment, supervision or rehabilitation and the adult court system provides adequate dispositional alternatives,” Abidiwan-Lupo argued. “Additionally, the horrific and violent nature of the defendant’s acts, the defendant’s sole culpability in the crime and his significant threat to the safety of the community demonstrates that the public interest can only be served by denying decertification.

“Lastly, Julianne Siller was an innocent seventeen year old child when her life was violently stripped away from her and from her family. The impact of that loss, directly caused by the defendant, will endure forever,” Abidiwan-Lupo added.


Stahley, through his lawyer Timothy J. Barton, wants a judge to move his trial to juvenile court where potential punishments are less severe upon conviction.

Barton claimed Stahley, of the 4100 block of Rittenhouse Lane, will be able to establish at a decertification hearing that the transfer of the case to juvenile court “will serve the public interest.” Stahley “is in need of a program of supervision, care and rehabilitation,” Barton wrote in court papers previously filed.

Judge William R. Carpenter is likely to hold a hearing on the matter in the near future.

Authorities alleged Stahley, who was 16 at the time of the incident, fatally stabbed Siller, a Royersford teen who was about to graduate from Spring-Ford Area High School, after an argument in a park near the Perkiomen Trail. Stahley, a former Perkiomen Valley High School student, is currently being held in the county jail without bail, awaiting trial on charges of first- and third-degree murder and possession of an instrument of crime.

Police and prosecutors charged Stahley as an adult, relying on state laws that allow juveniles to face adult charges if they are accused of murder or commit violent crimes with a weapon. If Stahley is convicted of first-degree murder in adult court he could face life imprisonment. A conviction of third-degree murder in adult court could carry a possible maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison.

However, if the case is transferred to juvenile court and the charges are proven, then Stahley could be kept under court supervision only until he’s 21.

Juvenile court cases are handled differently than adult criminal cases. In juvenile court, there are no juries and all cases are handled by a judge. While adult court proceedings focus more on punishment, in juvenile court the focus is on rehabilitation.

In juvenile court, defendants are never referred to as “guilty,” but are considered “adjudicated delinquent” if the charges are proven. Additionally, juvenile courts aren’t bound by the same sentencing guidelines used in criminal courts.

Punishments in juvenile court can include placement in a juvenile detention facility, a rehabilitation facility or house arrest.

To get the case transferred to juvenile court, Barton will have to convince a judge that Stahley is amenable to treatment in the juvenile system.

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 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