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Man Guilty of First-Degree Murder in Slaying of Aunt

August 25, 2016



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Matthew Weintraub, 215.340.8159, mdweintraub@buckscounty.org

A Lower Bucks man was convicted of first-degree murder this afternoon in the strangulation death of his aunt after a two-day degree of guilt hearing. 

Jeffrey Allen Stafford, 40, will be sentenced Friday morning. He is facing a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole for the murder of Alisa Wilson, 61. He also will be sentenced for stealing his aunt’s car and belongings and for possession of heroin.

Stafford pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to a general charge of murder in the Jan. 5 slaying. It then fell to Bucks County Common Pleas Court Judge Diane E. Gibbons to decide whether Stafford was guilty of first-degree murder or third-degree murder.

In pronouncing her verdict, Gibbons sharply rejected Stafford’s defense that he was high on LSD and therefore unable to form the intent to kill required for first-degree murder.

“There is no LSD in this case,” Gibbons told Stafford. “You killed your aunt, and you used her for what you always used her: for your wants and your needs and your desires.”

Falls Township police found Wilson’s body the evening of Jan. 6, lying face-down on the floor of her unit in the Pennsbury Woods Apartments. She had been beaten and strangled.

Police were alerted to the crime by a friend of Stafford’s, who had accompanied him in Wilson’s stolen car to pawn her jewelry and purchase heroin. After Stafford started talking about how he had killed his aunt, the friend made recordings of their conversations and gave them to police.

Deputy District Attorney Matthew Weintraub argued that Stafford had to apply constant pressure to Wilson’s throat for roughly four minutes before she died. That alone indicated an intent to kill, he said.

“When he is literally choking the life out of his aunt for four minutes…did he intend to kill her?” Weintraub said in his closing argument. “It can mean only one thing when you do that.”

Weintraub noted that when Stafford was driving with his friend, he remarked that “it’s not as easy to snap a person’s neck as they make it look in the movies.”

Stafford strangled Wilson the day before he was scheduled for trial in Doylestown on charges that he had stolen $805 from a PayPal account belonging to a home business she operated. She was listed as a witness in that case.

Weintraub described Wilson as a caring, but enabling, aunt who at one time housed and employed Stafford in her business, calling her “like a second mother to him.”

“Alisa Wilson gave and gave and gave until there was nothing left to give him but her life, which he took,” Weintraub said.

Defense attorney Keith Williams said that Stafford maintained that he had ingested LSD prior to the killings and, as a result, was unable to have formed an intent to kill.

“The question is, does your honor believe he was on LSD?” Williams told Gibbons. “If you do, then he couldn’t have formed the intent.”

Gibbons did not believe it.

She said that Stafford didn’t knock things over or throw things as an intoxicated or hallucinating person might have. Rather, she said, he effectively focused his attention on strangling his aunt.

“He is in control, and every action he engages in is designed to kill, and only to kill,” Gibbons said, calling his testimony to the contrary “pathetic.”

In addition to the mandatory life sentence, Stafford faces up to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty Wednesday to theft, receiving stolen property, access device fraud and possession of heroin.

Weintraub, who was assisted by Deputy District Attorney Lindsay Vaughan, did not seek the death penalty.

The case was investigated by Falls Township police and Bucks County Detectives.

 Approved for release by Michele Kelly Walsh, Deputy District Attorney.

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