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Ryan Stufflet goes before judge in 2002 killing of Hope Babel in Shoemakersville

Published On: Jul 18 2013 12:03:44 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 18 2013 04:48:39 PM CDT

A man accused of committing the first homicide in the history of a small town in Berks County will stand trial on murder and arson charges.

HAMBURG, Pa. -

A Berks County man accused of killing his best friend's mother will stand trial on murder and arson charges.

Ryan Stufflet did not utter a word outside of court after he appeared before a district judge in Hamburg on Thursday.

Stufflet is charged with killing Hope Babel inside her apartment on Main Street in Shoemakersville in September 2002, said investigators. It was the first homicide in the borough's history.

Babel, 47, had been beaten unconscious, but she would have survived her injuries had her apartment not been set on fire, state police said. An autopsy determined she died of smoke inhalation.

The case went unsolved for more than a decade. Pennsylvania State police took the case over in 2005 and worked tirelessly to get it solved.

Stufflet was questioned over the years, and was considered a suspect. The case went in front of a Berks County grand jury, and Stufflet was arrested in May.

Stufflet, who was 17-years-old at the time of the homicide, was best friends with Babel's son, Isaiah.

"This whole thing with the defendant in this case is lie after lie after lie after lie," said Tpr. Robert Hess, Pa. State Police.

According to investigators, Stufflet said he doesn't remember anything that happened in 2002, including the night of the homicide, because of injuries he suffered in car accidents in 2002, 2004 and 2005.

Hess testified that the day Stufflet was taken into custody, he pinned the blame on Isaiah, and said he saw him choking his mother on her bed in the apartment.

Stufflet, now 28, of Tilden Township, is charged with homicide; first, second and third degree murder; and arson.

Stufflet's cousin, Daniel Blatt, wants to know the truth and hopes it all comes out in trial.

"I don't know that he murdered her or not. If he did, that's a pretty messed up thing to do, especially to your best friends mom. Honestly, knowing him and his past and how he is, I wouldn't put it past him," said Blatt.

Stufflet's defense attorney said prosecutors do not have any evidence that he killed Babel, and they will have an uphill battle come trial.

Stufflet's mother, Tina, was charged with perjury for allegedly lying to a grand jury, which ultimately uncovered the information police said they needed to arrest Stufflet in May.