CLEARFIELD – A Morrisdale man who admitted to killing another man and then setting the man’s home on fire will spend life in prison for his actions.
Jeffrey L. Stiner, 48, entered a guilty plea to first-degree murder and other charges, and he was sentenced Wednesday afternoon before Clearfield County Judge Paul E. Cherry.
Before he was sentenced, however, Stiner and his attorney, Clearfield County Public Defender Chris Pentz, had to leave the courtroom to be sure that Stiner understood the court proceedings.
Judge Cherry asked Stiner if he admitted to killing 73-year-old Emory B. Rinehart Sr. in his Graham Township home on Jan. 17. Stiner responded, “I’m not sure, sir. I did, yes, but I don’t know why.”
That prompted Judge Cherry to turn to Clearfield County District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. and indicate that the plea would not be accepted.
Stiner and his attorney then left the courtroom for several minutes. When they returned, Pentz said his client was confused about the “why” of the crime but not the “if.”
Judge Cherry again asked Stiner if he was aware that he was entering the plea of guilt to murder, and Stiner said, “Yes.” Shaw then asked Stiner if he committed the crime with premeditation and malice, both of which the commonwealth would have had to prove if the case went to trial. To that question, Stiner also said, “Yes.”
Before sentencing Stiner, Judge Cherry said, “This has to be one of the most cowardly, senseless and hateful acts that any human being can ever do to another.”
Stiner was accused of fatally shooting Rinehart, taking some of his personal items and then setting the home on fire. DNA evidence had to be used to positively identify Rinehart’s body.
“I hope that there is not a minute that goes by that you don’t think of Mr. Rinehart and the cowardly act that you did to him,” Judge Cherry said.
“Not only did you kill him, but you set a fire.”
Stiner also spoke prior to being sentenced. He began by facing the judge and saying, “I’m very sorry for everybody I involved.”
Judge Cherry stopped Stiner and told him to turn around so that he could speak directly to Rinehart’s family, present in the courtroom for the sentencing.
He turned and clasped his hands at his waist. He said, “Someday if I ever figure out what went wrong, I’ll do everything I can to let you all know.”
Many of the family members wept as Stiner spoke and hugged one another.
Stiner said he knew Rinehart’s three sons for their entire lives, and he said to them: “Believe me, I’m deeply sorry for this.”
For Stiner’s actions, he will spend the rest of his life in a state correctional institution. He was also ordered to serve a 10- to 20-year concurrent sentence on each of three other counts, one each of robbery, arson and burglary.
The original court documents filed in January show that Stiner claimed that Rinehart asked him to end his life and then take whatever he wanted from the home.
Stiner could have been sentenced to death if the case had gone to trial and if he was found guilty. Shaw filed paperwork noting that intent in March.
Judge Cherry said the court noted Stiner’s previous record in accepting the plea, noting that Stiner had a previous record including attempted murder.
That other case came in 1989 when Jeffrey L. Stiner was 31 years old and living in Kylertown.
Court documents from that incident show that Stiner shot then-54-year-old John R. Wills of Graham Township and left him to die.
Stiner had been invited to Wills’ home in March of that year to share dinner, and afterward, Stiner shot Wills with a rifle.
Stiner left Wills’ house, but returned several times over three days. On about the third day, Wills was able to crawl and walk about 75 yards to a road where he flagged down a truck.
Stiner pleaded guilty to the attempted criminal homicide and other counts. He was sentenced to serve six to 12 years in jail.
Wills recovered from his injuries.