Defense seeks continuance in murder trial
January 9, 2018
Missing evidence and a last-minute witness were cited in a defense motion to delay the trial of a Gardnerville Ranchos man in the 2015 shooting death of his ex-girlfriend's grandson.
John Stalcup is facing an open murder charge, something that attorney Derrick Lopez said should weigh in his favor in the request to delay the trial set to begin next week.
"This is charged as open murder," Lopez argued on Monday night. "The stakes are huge. This is not just any case. It isn't fair to have Mr. Stalcup in this position."
Ian Matthew Toepfer, 19, had been living with his grandmother and Stalcup at an address on Ann Way for three weeks when on Aug. 18, 2015, an altercation broke out.
Toepfer and the boyfriend of Stalcup's daughter got into an argument and Stalcup encouraged them to take it outside.
Stalcup, Toepfer and the boyfriend had been drinking.
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When they went outside, Toepfer decked Stalcup, breaking his nose and the orbital bone in his eye.
Stalcup dialed 911 to report the assault. In the meantime, Toepfer, the boyfriend and Stalcup's daughter were still fighting.
Lopez sought the tape of the initial 911 call, but was told it had been erased because there wasn't a hold on it.
He said that tape would help show the jury the initial emotion of the call. Toepfer's grandmother escorted him away from the address before deputies arrived to take the report.
Deputies asked Stalcup to call them if Toepfer returned. Instead, when Toepfer returned, the boyfriend chased him down and tackled him at the end of the driveway.
Stalcup, who had retrieved a pistol he kept, ran down to the bottom of the driveway and shot Toepfer in the back of the head.
Lopez is arguing that the gun went off when the boyfriend saw the gun near his face and batted it away, causing it to go off.
Toepfer was taken for medical treatment, but was declared brain dead and taken off life support the next day.
Lopez is also seeking evidence of Toepfer's blood alcohol level, but the sample was destroyed at some point.
A Douglas County investigator was told by a nurse that the teen's alcohol level was .08. Lopez said he received Toepfer's medical records last week, but at more than 400 pages he believes it will take longer than a week to find a blood alcohol level, if it's there.
He said Toepfer's blood alcohol content is critical in showing the jury whether the teenager was under the influence when the incident occurred.
Lopez is also seeking testing of a swab on the boyfriend's finger, which would be corroboration of the story that he batted the gun away.
The boyfriend claimed his finger was injured when the gun went off. Stalcup's blood alcohol level was .24, or three times the legal limit more than three hours after the shooting.
Lopez said part of the issue was that Stalcup didn't face charges until a year after the shooting occurred on Aug. 18, 2015.
An inquest found that Toepfer's death was by criminal means on July 7, 2016. An open murder charge was filed the next month, almost a year after Toepfer was killed.
Next week's court date was set in February after Stalcup was bound over for trial.
Deputies first responded to the Ann Way home at 8:20 p.m. after Toepfer hit Stalcup in the face, breaking bones in his nose and eye socket.
The second call came just over an hour later at 9:36 p.m. after Stalcup shot Toepfer.
Lopez said he learned there was a new witness last week. The witness, who is the father of a neighbor, allegedly said he heard Stalcup threaten to kill Toepfer that night.
Prosecutor Ric Casper argued that a continuance wouldn't help solve most of the issues Lopez raised in his motion.
District Judge Tom Gregory took the motion under advisement.
Jury selection for the two-week trial is scheduled to start on Tuesday.