John Ruth III
John Ruth III

Charges against a man accused in the 2002 homicide of Stacey Farmer have been withdrawn, according to the York County District Attorney's Office.

John Edward Ruth III, 58, was released from York County Prison on Friday, a prison official said.

A convicted drug dealer, Ruth spent more than two years in prison awaiting trial on charges of first- and third-degree murder, according to court documents.

Common Pleas Judge Craig T. Trebilcock on Friday granted the prosecution's motion to drop the charges, according to court records. The charges could be re-filed at a later date.

Chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker, who was handling the case, will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. in the York County Judicial Center.

Homicide victim Stacey Farmer
Homicide victim Stacey Farmer (.)

Neither York County District Attorney Tom Kearney nor defense attorney George Matangos, who was representing Ruth, returned phone messages seeking comment.

What happened: Ruth was arrested nearly a decade after Farmer, 33, was found dead in front of his Windsor Township home early on June 27, 2002.

Farmer was shot in the head at close range and was found at 3:20 a.m. in front of his home at 880 Snyder Corner Road, York Area Regional Police said.

At the time of his slaying Farmer was free on bail, accused of helping friend Duane L. Frey cover up another homicide that also happened on Farmer's property.

Frey was later convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for killing Hopethan "Flex" Johnson, 29, of Red Lion, on May 26, 2002.

Frey told police Johnson was his drug dealer and had ruined his life. He blamed Johnson for his addiction and for wiping out his life savings of about $13,000, trial testimony revealed.

Body found: However, he refused to tell investigators what became of Johnson's body, except to say "it's probably crab bait right now."

On March 25, 2008, two land surveyors found Johnson's remains on a remote mountainside not far from the Holtwood Dam.

Police said Farmer had at least peripheral involvement in Johnson's murder as well, and was charged with evidence-tampering and hindering the prosecution of a suspect.

Farmer was killed two days after The York Dispatch published an article quoting Farmer's family members as saying Farmer planned to go to police and come clean.

Car gutted: Barker has said Farmer was either sitting inside or standing next to the killer's vehicle when he was shot and bled heavily on it.

As the killer drove away, his vehicle left a quarter-mile blood trail on Snyder Corner Road, according to police.

Days after Farmer was killed, a vehicle that had been used by Ruth was found gutted in the Susquehanna River, police have said.

Ruth repeatedly told investigators Farmer called him on the phone about 3 a.m. June 27, 2002, according to police. That's 20 minutes before a passer-by spotted Farmer's body.

But retired Detective Kathleen Burke, who was lead investigator in the case, testified at Ruth's preliminary hearing that although she reviewed phone records, she could find no calls between Farmer and Ruth at that time.

Burke said she did find at least one phone call between Ruth and one of his drug customers in that time frame. The drug customer lived across the street from the Happy Hour bar in Red Lion.

She also determined Farmer drove to the Happy Hour about 1:30 a.m., and the Jeep he used was later found parked across the street, she said.