Horner man arrested again in cold case

By Melissa Toothman

Staff Writer

WESTON – After charges were dismissed in November against three murder suspects in a 14-year-old double murder case in Weston, one man was arrested again Thursday in connection to the original charges, police said.

Joseph Edward Metz, 39, of Horner, was released from the Central Regional Jail on Nov. 8, 2013, after his two-count murder, robbery and kidnapping charges were dropped without prejudice, meaning they can be brought back up again.

Metz is now facing two counts of first- degree murder.

It was a legal technicality that got Metz and two other suspects, David Martin Hughes, 58, and Charles Steven Freeman, 51, both of Archbold, Ohio, released from jail – at least temporarily – after their original charges were dismissed.

Hughes was rearrested in December on the charge of conspiracy in relation to the case.

When asked why the new charges against Metz and Hughes differed from the original charges against them, Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Smith said that the March term of the Lewis County grand jury could ultimately make the decision.

It is still possible for additional charges in relation to the case to be brought forward, as the investigation is ongoing, Smith said. No charges had been filed against Freeman as of press time.

“The investigation is continuing vigorously,” Smith said.

According to a Thursday press release from the Lewis County Sheriff’s Department, Metz is accused of being responsible for the disappearances and murders of Mary Friend, 45, and Maxine Stalnaker, 69. Metz is the son of Friend and the grandson of Stalnaker.

“The arrest of Mr. Metz this morning will hopefully bring forth justice for Mary Friend and Maxine Stalnaker,” Lewis County Sheriff Adam Gissy said in the release. “The terrible incident that occurred in December of 1999 has haunted the family and friends of these two innocent women, and we hope that through the adjudication process the defendant will be held accountable for his actions.”

Metz was arrested, arraigned by Harrison County Magistrate Tammy Marple and then transported to the Central Regional Jail. Bond has not yet been set.

Marple was appointed to the case because Lewis County Magistrates Roger Clem and Michael Gissy both were previously involved in the investigation of the murder case and cannot be appointed to the case, according to previous reports.

The dismissal of the charges against three suspects in the case came after a defense attorney filed a motion stating that Upshur County Magistrate Mike Coffman, who handled the initial complaints against the three suspects, was working as a deputy sheriff in Lewis County at some period in the case’s investigation.

Smith previously told The Inter-Mountain that the conflict would complicate the case and create the potential for an appellate court to overturn it.

Stalnaker and Friend were reported missing in December 1999. Their car was found in Harrison County a short time afterward. According to previous Lewis County Magistrate Court records, Hughes, who was the owner of the Wilderness Plantation at the time, allegedly conspired with Metz and Freeman to kidnap, rob and kill the two women.

According to court records, Hughes was concerned that Friend allegedly possessed a writing tablet with information about alleged illegal criminal activities relating to his business affairs. Metz and Freeman allegedly took the women from their home on Fox Run Road and transported them to another location on the Jesse Run Road. It was there that they allegedly took the purse and killed the women, according to court records. The purse was later recovered in 2002 by a fisherman in Lewis County.