Accused murderer David Stoddard was wanted by Barberton police detectives a month before he shot and killed a pregnant teenager.
But despite receiving DNA evidence on Dec. 5 linking him to a violent home invasion, Barberton detectives never located Stoddard before he opened fire inside a house, killing the teenager a month later.
Stoddard, 24, is accused of killing Anna Karam, 16, of Akron, and her unborn child. Jessica Halman, 19, of Norton, was shot in the head, but survived the injury. She has since been released from the hospital, a relative said Thursday.
Stoddard’s attorney denies that his client was eluding police for a month, and the home-invasion victim said Thursday that detectives did not take his case serious enough, thus allowing Stoddard to roam free.
Officer Marty Eberhart, Barberton police spokesman, said officers in December looked for Stoddard, checking the various addresses he was known to frequent. Beyond that, Eberhart was unable to say how intense the search was for Stoddard and how long they searched.
On Thursday, detectives filed aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary charges against Stoddard, who was already facing a potential life sentence for aggravated murder.
“It’s kind of one of those things that you just keep checking for the suspect and if you come across him, you deal with him at that time,” Eberhart said.
Eberhart said police did not have a warrant for Stoddard’s arrest in December. At the same time, however, he said Stoddard would have been arrested once he met with detectives.
“We needed to talk to him about it,” Eberhart said. “We were making arrangements with his attorney to turn himself in and be charged at that time.”
Detective Lt. Brian Jamison, who investigated the home-invasion case, and police Chief Vince Morber did not return calls for comment Thursday.
Friends and family of Karam and Halman are left to wonder what would have happened had Stoddard been arrested before Jan. 6.
“They could have found him,” said Paul King, a cousin of Halman and an acquaintance of Stoddard and the home-invasion victims.
On Jan. 6, police say, Stoddard barged inside an East Archwood Avenue home and opened fire. Witnesses say he was looking for his ex-girlfriend when he shot Karam and Halman. Stoddard fled the house and was found inside a motel room hours later by Wadsworth police.
The home invasion took place on Oct. 5 inside a Jefferson Avenue home. Police say three men, one armed with a gun, burst inside and demanded money. One person inside was assaulted, and the resident’s 10-year-old pit bull named Duke was shot to death after biting the arm and leg of one intruder.
Officers at the scene swabbed the dead dog’s mouth and collected a DNA sample. Testing on the evidence was potentially linked to Stoddard.
Brad Mitchell, 27, was the target of the home invasion after he announced on Facebook that he had won a $10,000 prize playing the McDonald’s Monopoly game. In an interview Thursday, he said police detectives didn’t take his case seriously and one officer accused him of being targeted because he sold drugs.
He said he identified Stoddard as a potential suspect before the DNA results came back.
“I don’t think they put any effort in my case at all,” Mitchell said. “They basically said I was lying and just passed it off as a drug deal gone bad or a drug robbery and who cares.
“I wish they would have taken it more seriously. Had they found him, those girls would not have been shot.”
Defense attorney Jon Sinn said Detective Jamison “hounded” him for two weeks, trying to schedule an appointment with Stoddard. He said police detectives made a strategic decision to set up a meeting with Stoddard without his arrest in order to pressure him into providing the identities of his alleged cohorts.
“My client was not eluding police,” Sinn said. “He was in town, living at home and I was in daily contact with him.
“We were in discussions with police reference giving a statement to them and eventually turn him in. Barberton thought they were going to circumvent the Miranda requirement by talking him into giving a statement with his attorney present. That’s normal police procedure. It blew up on them, and obviously everyone else involved, when my client was accused of a heinous murder.”
A month after the home invasion, Barberton police arrested Stoddard on charges of carrying a concealed weapon. He was released on a $10,000 personal bond and was set to appear in Summit County Common Pleas Court on Dec. 18. The hearing was continued at the request of Stoddard’s attorney.
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or email@example.com.