By Keith Gushard
“I never wanted him to die,” a tearful Deidre Stoll said in an emotional speech in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas on Tuesday. “I’d do anything to go back to that day.”
The 47-year-old Saegertown area woman’s comments came after she pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter late Tuesday morning before Judge John Spataro for the fatal stabbing death of her husband, Willis Stoll, 50, last year.
Stoll was sentenced by Judge Spataro to a total of five and one-half to 20 years in state prison for the voluntary manslaughter charge, with 408 days credit. Twenty years in prison is the maximum prison sentence for voluntary manslaughter under Pennsylvania law.
Pennsylvania State Police initially charged Mrs. Stoll with criminal homicide and aggravated assault for fatally stabbing her husband in their Cussewago Township home Sept. 11, 2011. Willis Stoll died from his wound Sept. 14, 2011, while hospitalized at UPMC Hamot in Erie. Mr. Stoll’s death was ruled a homicide by the Crawford County Coroner’s Office.
Mrs. Stoll pleaded guilty in a plea bargain with the Crawford County District Attorney’s Office. Both the prosecution and defense recommended a sentence of five and one-half to 20 years in prison as part of the plea bargain.
“It’s a tragedy,” Jeffrey Misko, an assistant Crawford County public defender who represented Mrs. Stoll, told a Tribune reporter following the sentencing. “The death, when it occurred, affected both sides of the family. She’s very sorry for what happened.”
Paula DiGiacomo, first assistant district attorney, told a Tribune reporter the Stoll family was consulted about the plea bargain and agreed to it.
“Nothing will bring Willis Stoll back,” said DiGiacomo. “It was a just plea agreement. Hopefully, it will bring some closure for the family.”
In court, DiGiacomo described Mr. Stoll as a “good, hard-working man.”
“He loved his family and friends,” DiGiacomo said. “He loved Deidre even after what happened. Some of his last words were ‘I love her.’ ”
Mrs. Stoll stabbed her husband in his right side with a knife in the bedroom of their home during an afternoon argument between the couple, according to police.
The Stolls had argued about alleged spousal cheating, according to the arrest affidavit filed in the case. Mrs. Stoll told police that Mr. Stoll thought she was cheating on him, according to the affidavit.
According to the affidavit, Mrs. Stoll told police Mr. Stoll allegedly had pinned her against a wall of a bedroom in the home, holding her with his forearm. Mrs. Stoll told police she pushed her husband away, grabbed a kitchen knife that was on a nightstand by the bed and stabbed Mr. Stoll once before she ran into a bathroom, according to the affidavit. Mrs. Stoll then came out of the bathroom and put pressure on her husband’s wound and called 911 for aid.
Mrs. Stoll offered about a five-minute, tearful apology to the Stoll family before being sentenced by Spataro. There were nine members of Mr. Stoll’s family in the courtroom, including siblings and children, as well as nine members of Mrs. Stoll’s family.
“This was not intentional in any way,” Mrs. Stoll said in asking for forgiveness. “I know you may not believe that.”
“I want the family to know how sorry I am,” she concluded. “I can never say it enough. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
In pronouncing sentence, Judge Spataro called Mr. Stoll’s death a “tremendous tragedy” noting the couple’s use of alcohol had been a factor in the incident.
“Had it been addressed, perhaps it would have led to a different result,” Spataro said of the couple’s use of alcohol. “It’s a dangerous thing. It went out of control and that’s what happened.”
In addition to the five and one-half to 20-year sentence handed down, Judge Spataro also ordered Mrs. Stoll to reimburse Tamara Stoll, her stepdaughter, $8,488.36 for funeral expenses; and pay a $500 fine plus court costs.
Judge Spataro also noted Mrs. Stoll had a previous driving under the influence conviction in Venango County and was on parole supervision for that case at the time of her arrest. The judge said the voluntary manslaughter jail sentence is to run concurrent with any change in sentence for Mrs. Stoll’s Venango County DUI case.
Mrs. Stoll now will be sent to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections for assignment. She has been lodged in the Crawford County jail in Saegertown without bond since charges were filed against her after her husband’s death.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.