CLEARFIELD – On Wednesday the case against a DuBois man accused of killing his girlfriend in September of last year will go to the jury 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. presented the case on behalf of the commonwealth. Fields is represented by defense attorneys Michael Marshall and Leanne Nedza. President Judge Fredric Ammerman presided over the trial and will instruct jurors Wednesday morning.
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.
Pathologist Dr. Harry Kamerow of Centre Pathology Associates testified first when the commonwealth continued presenting its case Tuesday morning. He performed the autopsy on the victim who had suffered four, different lacerations in her neck area.
Of those, one laceration was to her right jugular vein; another severed about 90 percent of her windpipe. Blood from her jugular vein was then able to pass through her windpipe and fill her lungs. She was also bleeding out, explained Kamerow.
Kamerow noted that the victim had injuries on her hands, which he characterized as defensive wounds. He said it’s an indicator that the victim was trying to fight off and shield herself from her attacker.
The autopsy indicated that the victim’s cause of death was a laceration to the right jugular vein and exsanguination and the manner of her death was homicide. “Someone stabbed her, and she bled to death,” Kamerow told jurors.
Joe Kukosky Jr., a forensic DNA scientist with the Pennsylvania State Police Greensburg Laboratory, testified that he analyzed blood samples collected from Fields’ knife’s handle and blade and from his photo identification holder and T-shirt.
On the knife’s handle, he found two DNA contributors with one being the majority. The major component matched a known blood sample from the victim. On the knife’s blade, he found three DNA contributors with the majority coming from Fields and the victim.
Kukosky said so far as the blood samples analyzed from Fields’ photo ID holder and from the front of his T-shirt, both matched a known blood sample from the victim.
Sergeant Shawn McCleary of the DuBois City police was the last witness for the commonwealth. He corroborated the testimony given by other officers who responded at approximately 2:50 a.m. – 3 a.m. Sept. 22, 2015 to an open 911 call from an East Scribner Avenue residence and who found Snyder bleeding profusely from her neck area in her living room.
Once she was pronounced dead and emergency personnel cleared the scene, police searched and secured the residence. Police also learned that the victim had been living with Fields, and he’d fled prior to their arrival. Police subsequently issued a be-on-the-look-out alert for him, said McCleary.
McCleary told jurors that Officer Randy Young had made contact with Fields by phone, and he refused to turn himself in to police.
As a result, multiple police agencies were engaged in a day-long manhunt for Fields in the Penfield area near the victim’s family’s residence on Mount Pleasant Road.
That evening Fields was taken into custody, and McCleary went to the DuBois state police barracks to participate in an interview with Fields.
On Tuesday afternoon, Fields took the stand in his own defense and didn’t show any emotion. He testified that he and the victim were engaged and planned to get married. He had been living with her for about a year with her children.
According to him, both he and the victim were on medication as well as the children. He named several medications he took for his bipolar disorder and anxiety and as a sleep aid. He also said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
On Sept. 21, 2015, Fields returned home around 9 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. The couple ate and the victim became upset over an article she’d found on Facebook. They talked about it for a while; he took his medication; and then he went to sleep at about 11 p.m.
Fields said he usually wears a knife secured in a sheath on a lanyard around his neck. That night he was sleeping in the recliner next to the couch with it around his neck. Around 1 a.m., he woke up and found the knife was missing from its sheath.
He looked over and noticed it was on the arm of the couch next to where the victim was sitting at. He said she started to accuse him of cheating on her, which occurred on a weekly basis, with it being something she dwelled on.
While they argued back and forth, Fields said she asked him to leave the residence around 2 a.m. He planned to sleep outside on the porch because he’d taken medications, some of which are to help him sleep.
He went to pick up his knife when the victim said she was going to call her brother. She also told Fields that it was the worst relationship she’d ever been in. This angered him and he stabbed her in the chest.
Fields said the victim wanted to call her mother, and he dialed the phone and then handed it to her. The victim started kicking at him and screaming for him to get off her and to get away.
Fields testified that he just started stabbing the victim in the neck and they wrestled around for about two minutes during a struggle in the living room. This, he said, woke up the victim’s son who was sleeping on the couch, and he and the dog were both “flipping out.”
Fields tried to calm down the victim’s son. He called 911 when the victim asked him to and handed the phone to her. When he noticed police had pulled up, he unchained the top lock on the door, and told the victim’s son that it would be OK for him to answer for police.
Fields told jurors that he didn’t realize how badly the victim was injured because she was still able to talk to him. He panicked, however, and fled out the back door of the residence since she would have help with the police there.
When asked by Marshall, Fields testified that he loved the victim and intended on marrying her. He said it wasn’t his intent to kill her, and he wasn’t thinking while he was stabbing her.
Fields said it wasn’t until the victim’s son slammed into him and asked why he was hurting his mommy that he realized what he’d done and that he had blood on his hands.
Later that evening, Fields received a text-message from his aunt who stated the victim was dead. At that point, he was sitting in the woods in Penfield, where he was observed by the victim’s family. Fields decided to go down and turn himself in to police.
When asked by Marshall, Fields admitted that he initially told police Snyder had killed herself. After more than an hour into his police interview, he thought he may as well tell the truth and get it over with. He said it was bad enough he hurt her family who had lost their daughter, sister and mother.
During his closing arguments, Marshall told jurors it wasn’t a case of “who’d done it.” He said there wasn’t any disputing that Fields killed the victim.
Marshall said Fields was guilty of all of the charges, except for murder of the first degree. “I’ll save you time looking at all of the charges,” he said. He went to the elements of first-degree murder and disputed that Fields intended to kill the victim.
He claimed Fields acted out of anger and wasn’t thinking about what he was doing. “His anger took over his whole thought process,” he said. If Fields really wanted to kill the victim, he would have “finished the job.”
“If your intent is to kill and you stop and they’re not dead, you finish them off. Once he realized what he’d done, he didn’t.”
Marshall also pointed out that Fields showed character by apologizing to police at the end of the interview for wasting their time with his “[expletive] story.”
Shaw countered, arguing the defense wanted to excuse Fields of murder. “I’ll take murder three but don’t find me guilty of murder of the first degree. I would encourage you not to buy into any of that,” he said.
He pointed out that dispatch received an open 911 call, meaning there wasn’t any response on the line. He said Fields didn’t say anything to try to get emergency services there to help save the victim.
Shaw asked jurors to put Fields’ story into context. He snapped because the victim made accusations; he stabbed her in a chest; he stopped until he snapped again; and then he stabbed her not once but multiple times in her neck area.
“He was mad. He wanted to kill her and that’s what he did,” he argued. “… You don’t stab someone period if you don’t intend to kill them. He did nothing to help her. He did nothing to stop the bleeding. He went out the back door, took off and left her to die.”
Ammerman will charge jurors beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday and then send them into their deliberations.