Trial on hold in teen’s shooting
January 11, 2018
The trial of a Gardnerville Ranchos man in the death of his former girlfriend's grandson has been postponed.
In an order issued on Wednesday, Douglas County District Judge Tom Gregory granted a defense motion for a continuance.
The trial of John Edgar Stalcup in the Aug. 18, 2015, death of Ian Toepfer was scheduled to start on Tuesday with jury selection.
However, Attorney Derrick Lopez sought a continuance on Monday citing missing evidence, a last-minute witness and additional testing that could not be completed in time.
Stalcup, 57, admitted to shooting 19-year-old Toepfer during an altercation at their Ann Way home.
Toepfer punched Stalcup in the face during a fight earlier that evening, breaking the older man's nose and orbital bone.
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One of the pieces of evidence that has since been overwritten is Stalcup's original 911 call that night.
Lopez said he felt it was important the jury heard the first call, since they would probably hear the second.
The call was booked under the original case number, and neither the defense nor the prosecution told Emergency Dispatch to hang onto it.
Also missing is a sample of Toepfer's blood taken after the shooting. While a Douglas County investigator was told Toepfer had a .08 blood alcohol level, the sample itself was not tested by the crime lab and was later destroyed as a matter of routine.
Complicating the issue is that it took nearly a year for charges to be filed against Stalcup.
Lopez is also seeking additional testing to corroborate the testimony of Travis Atchison, who said he was injured in the incident.
Atchison was the boyfriend of Stalcup's daughter, who tackled Toepfer when he returned to the house and was on top of him when the shooting occurred.
The defense is claiming that the gun went off accidentally when Atchison batted it away from his head.
Lopez wants both the gunshot residue test on Atchison's finger and what appears to be blood on the gun's barrel tested.
If what appears on the barrel turns out to be blood, it would be two months before the laboratory could determine whose it was.
Lopez said Atchison and Stalcup are the only living witnesses to the incident, and that the evidence he's seeking would back up their story.
Lopez would like the opportunity to have an investigator talk to a recently added witness. The witness is the father of one of the neighbors who allegedly heard Stalcup threaten to kill Toepfer.
On Tuesday, prosecutor Ric Casper dropped his opposition to the continuance.
Gregory expressed concern at the delay, given the trial date had been set on March 20, 2017, and then confirmed in June and December.
"The costs associated with continuing the trial are many and include economic costs, loss of time, inconvenience to many and wreckage of judicial economy," Gregory wrote in his order. "The effect, however, would be to present the jury with an unprepared case based on incomplete evidence. This is a cost unto itself that, in the eyes of justice, far outweighs the costs of a continuance."
Gregory set a Feb. 5 hearing to discuss scheduling and resetting the trial date.
Stalcup is charged with open murder, which means it will be up to the jury to decide if and what crime was committed.