CLEARFIELD – The trial for a DuBois man accused of killing his girlfriend in September of last year got under way Monday in Clearfield County Court.
Joseph R. Fields, 36, of DuBois has been charged with murder of the first degree, murder of the third degree, aggravated assault, involuntary manslaughter and recklessly endangering another person.
District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. is presenting the case on behalf of the commonwealth. Fields is being represented by defense attorneys Michael Marshall and Leanne Nedza. President Judge Fredric Ammerman is presiding over the trial.
The charges against Fields stem from Sept. 22, 2015 when police were dispatched to an open line 911 call from an East Scribner Avenue residence. Upon arrival they found a woman, Nicole Snyder, whose throat had allegedly been stabbed multiple times. Fields was later taken into custody after a day-long manhunt in the Penfield area.
Anthony Assalone of DuBois testified first on behalf of the commonwealth. He was awakened at approximately 2:50 a.m. on the date in question when he received a call from Fields. Fields told him to call the victim’s mother and have her pick up the victim’s young son.
Fields told him that the victim had “flipped out” and tried to kill herself. He called the victim’s mother after hanging up with Fields. Assalone said his fiancée, Barbara Wilcox, the victim’s sister, had also spoken to the defendant when he called him and then found a ride to the victim’s residence.
Assalone said he spoke to Wilcox, who was in contact with Corporal Randy Young of the DuBois City police, at the scene. He also spoke to the officer later on by phone and gave him a cell phone number for Fields.
Later on that evening, Assalone said he was at the victim’s mother’s Mount Pleasant Road residence looking for her lost dog with her other family members. It was a remote area where, he said, police had been searching for Fields during the manhunt.
About 50 yards from the victim’s mother’s trailer, they observed Fields in the woods and talked him into turning himself in to police. Fields possessed a knife and commented that it was what was used, and police would want it, Assalone testified.
When asked to drop the knife, Assalone said Fields did and he [Assalone] was about three feet from it. He stood by to make sure no one picked up the knife until police arrival.
Barbara Wilcox, the victim’s sister, took the witness stand next for the commonwealth. She corroborated the testimony previously given by Assalone.
Officer Michael Davidson of the DuBois City police was dispatched to an open line 911 call during the early-morning hours Sept. 22, 2015 and responded to the East Scribner Avenue residence.
He was advised by dispatch that a child could be heard crying and a male and female were also heard talking in the background. He arrived on scene with Sergeant Shawn McCleary and Young.
Upon approaching the residence, he observed the lights were off and flashes were coming from the television. He knocked on the door after which he heard a loud thud on the window. When he knocked again he heard another loud thud on the window.
A young boy, Davidson said, answered the door, and he appeared very scared and nervous. He had blood on his clothing and was holding a dog, which also had blood on it.
He said that the boy told him, “Joe killed my mommy” to which Marshall objected and argued on the basis that this was hearsay. Ammerman then sustained his objection.
He said the boy was immediately removed from the residence, as officers believed someone was in need of assistance and or in danger. Once inside he found the victim to his left in the living room, and she was on her knees, hunched over the couch and clutching her neck area.
“There was blood everywhere,” Davidson told jurors. He asked the victim if anyone was inside the residence but blood was coming from her mouth and she couldn’t speak. She pointed to the steps toward the back of the residence.
Davidson said he provided security for Officer Derrick Welsh of Sandy Township police, who responded with a clotting kit and started to render aid to the victim who had severe bleeding due to multiple lacerations to her neck area.
Jordan Anthony, who then worked for DuBois Emergency Medical Services as a paramedic, said he responded to a reported stabbing at approximately 3 a.m. that day and upon his arrival, the victim appeared to be unresponsive.
She was moved from her hunched position against the couch to the floor for oxygen and CPR to be administered to her. However, efforts to save her life were unsuccessful, Anthony said.
Davidson said once emergency personnel cleared, police conducted a search of the residence and didn’t locate anyone inside. He noticed a shoe and bottle near the window, which he believed to be the sources of the “thuds” on the window when he knocked on the door upon arrival. Police proceeded to establish an exterior perimeter to secure the residence.
Young testified that upon arrival he made contact with a young boy who had blood on his shirt and who was holding a dog at the door. He also had blood speckled on his hands, and there was blood on the dog’s nose. Young turned the boy over to another officer.
Young proceeded to the rear of the residence to secure it, as it was believed someone had left out the back prior to their arrival. He also helped search and secure the residence and later obtained a cell phone number from Fields through an interview with Assalone.
That morning Young made contact with Fields, who stated he hadn’t done anything wrong and the victim had tried to kill herself. When Young attempted to meet with him, Fields refused, saying he was driving around to clear his head and an hour away.
Young testified that he spoke to Fields approximately six to eight times. He offered to travel to meet Fields wherever to get his side of the story, but Fields wouldn’t provide his location to him.
After the last phone call, Young said Fields’ phone must have died because several more call attempts directed him straight to voicemail.
As a result, Young told jurors that a manhunt ensued for Fields and DuBois City police were assisted by the Pennsylvania State Police and other agencies.
Law enforcement spent the majority of that day searching a remote area of Penfield for Fields. It was the area near the victim’s family’s residence, Young said, and they weren’t able to locate him.
Clyde Snyder of DuBois, the victim’s brother, said they were looking for his mother’s dog around her Mount Pleasant Road residence later on that evening when his daughter observed Fields sitting in the woods nearby. Fields had a knife on the lanyard around his neck, which he wore often.
He described Fields as wearing a gray-colored T-shirt, which had blood stains on it. He also appeared to be dirty from being in the woods.
He said after five to 10 minutes, Fields came down to his mother’s trailer, dropped the knife on the ground and police were called and en route. Fields didn’t try to flee and upon arrival of police, he was taken into custody.
Corporal William Chase of the DuBois-based state police testified about the apprehension of Fields in Penfield. Upon receiving a call, he said police responded to a residence a short distance from where they had been searching for him.
He said four or five officers went down the driveway on foot to the residence. Fields was observed there smoking, ordered to get his hands up and then taken into custody and to the DuBois barracks.
Trooper David Ray, a criminal investigation assessment officer with the Punxsutawney-based state police, questioned Fields along with McCleary and Trooper Carol Strishock, a criminal investigator with DuBois-based state police, for about 90 minutes.
Fields’ interview with police was played in court. Initially, he told police he woke up after feeling a tug and found his knife was missing from his sheath he wore around his neck. He looked over and observed the victim stabbing herself in her stomach/chest area.
He said they began wrestling around on the couch and floor in the living room when he tried to get the knife away from her, and she wanted to call her mother and say goodbye.
At some point, the victim’s son who was asleep on the couch woke up and began to “freak out,” and Fields said he tried to calm him.
But as they wrestled, the victim kept stabbing herself in the neck, he told police. “I was trying to get the knife away when I heard this ungodly crunch,” he said.
He also said that the victim wouldn’t give him her cell phone to call 911, his cell phone was in his vehicle and neither he nor the victim’s son could find the cordless phone.
When the victim’s son asked him why he was hurting his mom, Fields said that “[expletive] me up in the head,” and by that point, he had gotten the knife from her, he picked it up and then fled from the residence.
When police asked about his relationship with the victim, Fields said they were talking about getting married, and he had plans of going to get a marriage license the following week.
He said although they bickered at each other, they didn’t fight or get into physical altercations. “I never laid a hand on her,” Fields told police. “When I got home [that night], everything seemed fine.”
When police asked Fields if he stabbed the victim, he said the only cut he did was right here. He pointed to a self-inflicted cut on his hand while he was on the run from police in the woods.
Police told Fields his story didn’t make sense because they were aware he and the victim had relationship problems. They also told him that she had defensive wounds on her, and evidence was going to tell another story as they progressed through the investigation.
Strishock was heard on the recording, stating the victim had tried calling 911 and had also thrown a shoe at the living room window to get the attention of police. She said it didn’t sound like a woman who wanted to die but one who was dying but didn’t want to.
When police asked Fields for the truth, he admitted to stabbing the victim. Around 1 a.m. he felt his knife being tugged from its sheath. He said the couple engaged in an argument and the victim “kept pushing his buttons and he just snapped.”
He stabbed her the first time in the stomach/chest area, and asked her if this was what she wanted. She wanted to call her mother to say “goodbye,” and he dialed the phone for her. Fields said he began stabbing her in the neck area, and the victim’s son would have witnessed it.
Before fleeing the residence, Fields told the victim’s son to let the police in when they got to the door. He left and drove to Brookville, went back to DuBois and then finally to Penfield in the area of the victim’s mother’s residence.
Coroner Mike Morris testified that upon arrival to the victim’s residence, he found her lying on the floor. She had suffered multiple lacerations, including ones that were defensive in nature.
Morris said an autopsy indicated that the victim’s cause of death was a laceration of the right jugular vein and the manner of her death was homicide.
The commonwealth will continue presenting its case beginning at 8:30 a.m. today, and the trial is scheduled through Thursday.