Volusia County woman Angela Stoldt of Deltona is accused of stabbing her neighbor, James Sheaffer, in the eyes with an ice pick before strangling him to death in a cemetery. After the alleged murder, Ms. Stoldt is accused of taking Mr. Sheaffer’s corpse back to her kitchen where she is said to have dismembered his body, followed by her attempt to cremate the remains. After her cremation attempt failed, Ms. Stoldt is alleged to have simply throw his remaining body parts out with the trash. As one can imagine, Ms. Stoldt’s alleged attempt to dispose of the evidence failed, instead leading to her arrest on murder charges. Ultimately Ms. Stoldt was charged with murder, tampering with evidence, and abuse of a corpse.
According to news reports, Ms. Stoldt was originally charged with second-degree murder until a Grand Jury returned an indictment for first-degree murder on or around November 12, 2014. Unfortunately for Ms. Stoldt, when one is indicted for first-degree murder there is the ever present potential for the death penalty. As for both first and second-degree murder in Florida, it must be proven that 1) there is a death, and 2) the death was caused by the criminal act of the defendant. What differentiates the degrees of murder is the mental state element. For a first-degree murder charge to stick, the State Attorney must prove that the defendant killed the victim with premeditation as opposed to merely performing an act imminently dangerous to another with a depraved mind. In other words, a first-degree murder charge requires an intent with some thought rather than just going a bit crazy and acting like a madman. For Ms. Stoldt, if she did in fact gouge out Mr. Sheaffer’s eyes and then follow that up with choking him, it would be more difficult for her criminal lawyer say that a singular depraved act caused the death. Furthermore, the combination of acts would provide support for an argument that there was ample time for reflection, which in turn lends support for the State’s allegation of premeditation.
So she’s accused of murdering him in some capacity. That’s run of the mill. Where this case gets interesting is the abuse of a dead human body charge. Per Florida Statute 872.06, one who mutilates or grossly abuses a dead human body commits a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in the Florida Department of Corrections. Though obviously this charge is secondary to the primary charge of first-degree murder, it isn’t overly common that one dismembers a human body and then tries to cook it. Often, evidence of secondary crimes can act to support an allegation of a primary crime. In this case, even if Ms. Stoldt did dismember Mr. Sheaffer’s body and then try to cook him, the evidence would go no more toward supporting a first-degree murder change than it would a second-degree murder charge.
At the end of the day, this is a tough case to defend because of the grotesqueness of the allegation. Perhaps a self-defense theory could carry some weight though a jury may find it troubling that both eyes were alleged to have been gouged out and Mr. Sheaffer was strangled to death. It will be interesting to see how this case unfolds.
Jason Mayberry is a Tampa criminal attorney representing those accused of both Federal and State crimes. We are available from 9AM to 5PM, Monday through Friday at 813-444-7435 or at 727-771-3847 for a free consultation.