York City homicide case heading to trial
An accused York City killer chose as his getaway driver a 56-year-old acquaintance who is hard of hearing, and didn't tell the man why he needed a ride, according to witness testimony.
Cody Paul Stiffler asked Christopher Koller — who attended church with Stiffler's little brother and often gave the brothers rides when they needed them — for a ride, Koller testified Friday at Stiffler's preliminary hearing.
The prosecution maintains Koller drove Stiffler to the area of East Cottage Place and Edgar Street about 7:50 p.m. Sept. 1, where Stiffler allegedly shot and killed Andrew Heyward Jackson.
Stiffler, 23, of 1209 Eberts Lane in York City, remains in York County Prison without bail, charged with homicide. At the close of his Friday hearing, District Judge Ron Haskell Jr. determined enough evidence exists for Stiffler to stand trial in York County Court.
Jackson, 23, was shot in the torso and left arm, police have said. Known as "New York" and "NY," he was found lying on his back in the hallway of 342 E. Cottage Place, dead of his wounds. He didn't live in the building, but ran inside after being shot, police said.
Testimony: Koller testified Stiffler directed him to drive to an area near the ice rink, then told him to stop.
"I thought he was going to go (to) the bathroom," Koller said, adding that while he was waiting for Stiffler to return he "heard two or three sounds that I thought were firecrackers. I didn't really pay much attention."
Then he saw Stiffler heading back to the car, at first walking, then jogging, then running, Koller testified.
"He didn't say anything, I didn't say anything. And I didn't think to ask him anything," Koller said, because Koller didn't realize someone had been shot.
Also testifying Friday was Taneal Hill, who said she was sitting on her porch when she saw a man walking down her driveway.
It seemed odd, she testified, because despite being light out and 70-some degrees that evening, he was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with the hood up and tied tightly.
Hill said she walked into her yard to see what he was doing.
"By that time he was already shooting the boy," Hill said, adding she saw the shooter get into the passenger side of a beige car. Koller testified his car is gold.
York City Police Detective Travis Sowers, who filed the charge against Stiffler, briefly took the stand Friday and confirmed the prosecution has "some concern" about releasing the names of certain witnesses in the case.
Haskell's staff confirmed police requested the hearing be moved from Haskell's office to the York County Judicial Center for security reasons because it's believed someone in the case has or had a gang affiliation.
Chief deputy prosecutor David Maisch declined to comment on whether the homicide was gang-related, but confirmed a number of homicide preliminary hearings have been held at the judicial center because there is better security and more seating.
Defense attorney Korey Leslie said he no information to suggest Stiffler was involved in a gang, and said his client maintains his innocence.
Leslie asked Haskell to dismiss the homicide charge, arguing the prosecution failed to present a witness who saw Stiffler shoot Jackson, but the judge wasn't swayed.
"The burden the commonwealth faces today is a very low hurdle," Haskell said, adding he believes there are "some interesting, deeper questions" that will have to be addressed as the case moves toward trial.
Previous run-ins? About a week before Jackson was gunned down, "there were several incidents between the victim 'NY' and Cody with at least one incident where a physical fight occurred between the two," documents state.
Police have said it's unclear what the men were fighting about, but that Jackson got the best of Stiffler and won the fistfight.
Documents also allege Stiffler told someone, "I did something serious ... I got NY."
Jackson's criminal history in York County includes being charged with attempted homicide for a York City shooting, being charged with dealing drugs and being charged with illegally possessing a weapon. He was originally from New York and recently lived in York City, police have said.
The shooting charges were dropped for lack of evidence, according to court records. The drug-dealing charge was dropped when he pleaded guilty to a lesser offense, and in the weapons case he pleaded guilty to possessing an offensive weapon and two counts of child endangerment, records state.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com.