Lewis murder hearings postponed until November

The preliminary hearings for three men accused in the 1999 disappearance and deaths of two Lewis County women were postponed until Nov. 1 to allow for a circuit judge to consider a defense attorney’s request.

The hearing for Joseph Metz, 39, of Horner, will be held at 8:30 a.m. that day, followed by a hearing for Charles Steven Freeman, 51, of Archbold, Ohio, at 10:15 a.m., and a hearing for David Martin Hughes, 58, of Archbold, Ohio, at 11:45 a.m.

All three are facing two counts each of murder, robbery and kidnapping in the case involving 69-year-old Maxine Stalnaker and her 45-year-old daughter Mary Geneva Friend. Metz is the son of Friend and the grandson of Stalnaker.

All three men are being held without bond. Metz is being held in the North Central Regional Jail in Doddridge County, while Hughes is being held in the Central Regional Jail in Braxton County. Freeman is being held in the Tygart Valley Regional Jail in Randolph County.

Metz’ defense attorneys, Dennis Willett and Steve Nanners, asked at a preliminary hearing in September for all documentation, recordings and other information be brought to court by the witnesses they had subpoenaed, which included Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Smith. A specially appointed magistrate, Tammy Marple of Harrison County, ruled that the witnesses could testify, but the turning over of documentation should be handled further into the legal proceedings.

Lewis County Circuit Court Judge Kurt Hall delayed Metz’ hearing until he could rule on the request.

On Friday, Freeman’s attorneys, Jim Hawkins and Tom Dyer, asked that Freeman’s preliminary hearing be continued “because their client has an interest to see the outcome of a motion from the other defendant.”

Smith asked that a date not be set until after Hall rules on Nanners’ and Willett’s request, but Marple said she would be setting Nov. 1 as the new date for the preliminary hearings.

“If we have a date,” she said, “the circuit judge may look at it a little quicker.”

Russell Stobbs, who is serving as Hughes’ defense attorney, also requested a delay in his client’s preliminary hearing.

Friend and Stalnaker were reported missing in December 1999, and their car was found a short time later in Harrison County.

According to Lewis County Magistrate Court records, Hughes, while the owner of the Wilderness Plantation, allegedly conspired with Metz and Freeman to have the two women kidnapped, robbed and killed because Hughes believed Friend possessed a writing tablet containing information regarding alleged illegal and criminal activities regarding Hughes’ business affairs. Hughes was allegedly concerned that the information could be turned over to law enforcement officers, the court records indicated.

Metz and Freeman allegedly removed the two women from their residence on Fox Run Road and took them to a location along Jesse Run Road, where they allegedly took a purse and allegedly killed the two women, according to court records.

The purse was recovered by a fisherman in Lewis County in 2002.

Court records also state that Metz and Freeman called Hughes after allegedly killing the two women and disposing of their bodies.

They then allegedly turned the writing tablet over to Hughes, according to court records.