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Killer at a loss for words to explain York City murder
Admitted murderer Cody Paul Stiffler told a York County judge on Monday morning he can't explain "the horribleness" of his crime, but he nevertheless pleaded guilty to fatally shooting a man in York City more than a year ago.
"It was a moment of mixed emotions of fear and just blind stupidity," Stiffler said in open court. "I feel like I just lost my mind."
As part of a negotiated plea agreement, the 24-year-old York City man pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in exchange for a sentence of 15 to 40 years in state prison. A charge of first-degree murder was dismissed as part of the deal.
Court documents reveal the homicide victim, Andrew Heyward Jackson, had previously beaten up Stiffler. But the defendant was still unable to explain in court what led him to gun down the man.
"We have attempted to understand from Mr. Stiffler himself why and how this event came about," presiding Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook noted in court. "Mr. Stiffler did not provide ... an explanation."
The shooting: Jackson suffered gunshot wounds to the torso and left arm during the Sept. 1, 2015, shooting.
Police were called to the 300 block of East Cottage Place shortly before 8 p.m. and found Jackson — known as "New York" and "NY" — lying on his back in the hallway of 342 E. Cottage Place, dead of gunshot wounds, according to court documents. Jackson did not live in the building but ran inside after being shot, York City Police have said.
Stiffler fled the state after the fatal shooting and remained on the lam until Dec. 15, when he was captured in Orlando, Florida.
His defense attorney, Chris Ferro, declined comment Monday.
Previous run-ins: Court documents state that 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."
Lt. Troy Bankert has said it is unclear what the men were fighting about but that Jackson got the best of Stiffler and won the fistfight.
Witnesses reported seeing a man wearing all dark clothing and large sunglasses fire a handgun several times in Jackson's direction, documents state. The shooter then ran off, the gun still in his hand, police said.
Prior to the gunfire, Stiffler had been in a gold car, police said. After getting out, he pulled up the hood of his sweatshirt and put on large-frame sunglasses before walking toward Jackson and firing, documents state.
Meeting planned: Another witness told police he walked to the area with Jackson to meet "an unknown subject" and while they were standing in the block he heard Jackson say, "What the f— is this," according to documents.
When the witness turned around, he saw someone dressed in all black, wearing big sunglasses, fire several times at Jackson, according to charging documents.
Detectives also tracked down a witness who told them Stiffler went home that night carrying two guns — a .38-caliber revolver and a 9mm handgun, documents state.
Stiffler told the witness, "I did something serious ... I got NY," according to documents. "Cody then advised that he took a cold shower to close his pores ... so the gunshot residue would get off of his skin."
Bankert dismissed the idea.
"That doesn't make it go away," Bankert said. "These (beliefs) are fictitious, stemming from TV shows that emphasize crime-scene processing."
Fatherless child: Amanda Eberlin, the mother of Jackson's young daughter, spoke in court Monday prior to Stiffler being sentenced. She said her daughter turns 3 in a little more than a week.
"This is the second birthday that (Jackson has) missed," she said. "He made a lot of mistakes ... (but) he didn't deserve this."
Also speaking in court was Jackson's cousin, Melanie Grant.
"I really feel sorry for (Stiffler). I really do," Grant told the judge. "I don't think he even knows what he did. Not only did he ... take my cousin's life, he ruined his own. And he couldn't honestly say what was the reason."
Grant said the murder makes her want to yell, scream and curse. But mostly, she said, she just wants to know why it happened.
Criminal past: Jackson was originally from New York and recently lived in York City, where it's believed he stayed with different people, according to the lieutenant. His last known address was on Walnut Street, police have said.
His 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.
The shooting charges were dropped for lack of evidence, according to court records. The drug 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.