Jury will hear alleged confession of Skippack teen accused of killing 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. (File photo by Geoff Patton/21st Century Media)

NORRISTOWN — A 16-year-old Skippack boy’s alleged police confession to stabbing his girlfriend will be heard by a jury when he stands trial later this year for the alleged murder, a judge has ruled.

Tristan Brian Stahley, of the 4100 block of Rittenhouse Lane, showed no emotion Wednesday as Montgomery County Judge William R. Carpenter ruled Stahley’s statements to police were given voluntarily and were properly obtained by investigators, making them admissible prosecutorial evidence when Stahley stands trial for the alleged May 25, 2013, stabbing death of 17-year-old Julianne Siller, of Royersford.

Stahley, who was 16 at the time of the alleged killing but has since turned 17, is awaiting trial on charges of first- and third-degree murder and possession of an instrument of crime in connection with the fatal stabbing of Siller, who was a senior at Spring-Ford Area High School. Because of the violent nature of the crime, Stahley was charged as an adult.

Members of Siller’s family and Stahley’s parents sat quietly on opposite sides of the courtroom during the pretrial hearing at which Stahley’s lawyer and prosecutors argued over the admissibility at trial of alleged incriminating statements Stahley gave to police between May 25 and May 26.

In those statements, Stahley admitted to stabbing Siller and directed police to the location of her body, prosecutors alleged.

Defense lawyer Timothy J. Barton implied Stahley’s earliest comments, when he allegedly told police outside his home that he had stabbed his girlfriend, were made without required constitutional safeguards. Barton also implied that Stahley might have been under the influence of alcohol.

But under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Abidiwan-Lupo and co-prosecutor Sophia Polites, state troopers testified Stahley was not threatened or coerced to give any statements and that he, in the presence of his mother, waived his right to have an attorney present while he was questioned at the police barracks.

Testimony revealed state police responded to the Stahley home about 10:21 p.m. May 25 for a report of a domestic disturbance and diffused a struggle between Stahley and his father. At that time, Stahley, who had cuts on his arms and legs and blood on his shirt, uttered to police that he stabbed his girlfriend in Palmer Park, near the Perkiomen Trail.

“He was afraid she was going to hook up with other people,” Trooper Brandon S. Corby testified, recalling Stahley’s words following his confession to the stabbing.

When Corby asked Stahley if his girlfriend was hurt or needed medical attention, Stahley allegedly replied he didn’t know, according to testimony. But Stahley agreed to lead troopers to Siller’s body.

“He was coherent but he was sobbing. Tears were coming out of his eyes,” Corby testified, recalling Stahley’s demeanor in a patrol car as they headed to the park. “He was crying, basically saying his life’s over.”

Corby and Cpl. David M. Pezzano each testified they saw no signs that Stahley was intoxicated or that he had been drinking alcohol.

Trooper Barry G. Bertolet, who took Stahley’s written statement about 3 a.m. May 26, testified Stahley, accompanied by his mother, voluntarily spoke to police. Stahley, with the approval of his mother, signed documents agreeing to speak to investigators without the presence of a lawyer, according to testimony.

“The defendant throughout this investigation was very cooperative. Sometimes he would cry,” Bertolet recalled, adding Stahley told police he was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and that he was “sober.”

Stahley, a former Perkiomen Valley High School student, is currently being held in the county jail without bail while awaiting trial.

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 pair 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 Bertolet and county Detective Paul Bradbury. “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, resulting in the police response, court documents indicate.

Follow Carl Hessler Jr. on Twitter @MontcoCourtNews