Bethlehem Press

Friday, July 21, 2017

LEHIGH COUNTY DA’S OFFICE

Tuesday, April 18, 2017 by CONTRIBUTED ARTICLE in Local News

Lower Macungie man charged in 2016 homicide

District Attorney Jim Martin and Pennsylvania State Police, Troop M, announced April 5 a Lower Macungie man has been charged in relation to the 2016 homicide of Stephanie Roof, 46, of 6409 Pinecrest Lane, Lower Macungie Township.

Josef Charles Raszler, 35, of 6412 Pinecrest Lane, Lower Macungie Township, has been charged with criminal homicide. Raszler will be arraigned through Central Booking and committed to Lehigh County Jail. There is no bail on this charge.

At approximately 1:08 a.m. Sept. 13, 2016, Pennsylvania State Police, Troop M, Fogelsville Station, responded to a report of an unresponsive female at 6409 Pinecrest Lane, in Lower Macungie Township, and found the victim, Stephanie Roof, lying in the driveway. Roof was taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest, where she was pronounced dead at 2:05 a.m.

At autopsy, it was determined Roof’s injuries consisted of a perforating gunshot wound to the chest which was the cause of her death. The entry wound to her chest was in the right infraclavicular region, without soot or stippling. The exit wound was to her side in the left scapular region. There was consequent damage to vital organs. Her death was ruled a homicide by Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim.

Raszler, whose residence is across the street from the victim’s, was interviewed by the Pennsylvania State Police at approximately 7:15 a.m. Sept. 13. He stated he did not know Roof well and denied having any relationship with her. However, during an interview conducted later that day, Raszler acknowledged having an intimate relationship with the victim. The nature of the relationship was corroborated by a subsequent examination of Roof’s cellular telephone and by items found in her home. Investigation determined Roof broke off the relationship in summer, 2015; but, that Raszler was angry and not accepting of the breakup.

A search was conducted of Roof’s property in the early morning of Sept. 13, 2016. A metal projectile-like object was located in the front yard. This was found to be unlike any known ammunition available for retail purchase and appeared to have been “homemade.”

The autopsy on Roof determined that the projectile could not be excluded as the cause of her death. The projectile was tested for blood, and the results were positive. The DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) profile obtained from the swab of the projectile matched the DNA profile obtained from a reference sample of the victim.

A search of Raszler’s home pursuant to a search warrant led to the discovery of numerous tools and equipment, including copper pipe with markings consistent with rifling, air tanks, copper barrel pipe with an air gun trigger, and large amounts of melted and bulk lead. These items are consistent with components for a homemade air gun and projectiles of the type found.

On a laptop computer, which was identified as belonging to the defendant, there were multiple Internet searches for “high pressure air pumps for air rifles,” “high pressure air pump gun” and “most powerful air rifle.”

Between May and June, 2016, Raszler purchased components from local hardware stores and online. These included: a self-centering manual lathe chuck, high pressure air gauges, a 4500 psi shoebox air compressor, and 3000 and 4500 psi ninja-style air tanks. Several of these purchases were identified by receipts found in Raszler’s bedroom.

It is alleged on Sept. 9 and 10 of 2016, Raszler stayed at his parents’ lake house in Auburn, Schuylkill County. During that time, persons living in the property adjacent to the Raszlers heard sounds they described as short bursts of compressed air sounding like “a pneumatic nail gun” and “spit air.”

At the Raszlers’ lake house, investigators discovered two metal projectile-like objects, one of which is very similar to the one found in Stephanie Roof’s front yard, and the other has similar markings. In close proximity to where these projectiles were found, they also found a wooden target-like structure approximately five feet in height and covered with a tarp. The tarp had holes in it which were consistent with having been struck by projectiles like those found. Additional items seized from the Auburn property included metal shavings, air cylinders, PVC piping, a vise, PSI gauge and all-purpose cement.

In the course of this investigation, Det. Mark Garrett, commander of the Lehigh County Firearm and Tool Mark Laboratory, was able to make an air gun using materials similar to those found in Raszler’s residence and following instructions on the Internet from sites of searches made by the defendant. The air gun constructed by Garrett is able to be discharged using compressed air and able to propel a projectile similar to the one found in Roof’s front yard. It has characteristics believed to be similar to the air gun thought to have been used in the commission of this crime.

Martin said, “This is a very complex case. I want to commend the Pennsylvania State Police, particularly Lt. Joseph Sokolofski and Troopers Chris Yaworski and Steven Furlong, for their work on this investigation which has led to the arrest of Josef Raszler. In addition, Det. Mark Garrett’s construction of an air gun was extremely helpful in identifying the manner in which this homicide occurred. I believe this to be a unique case and one in which we needed to be able to show the feasibility of making an air gun which could discharge a projectile of the type found; and that this type projectile would be capable of penetrating the human body, causing death. Accordingly, it was a painstaking and time-consuming investigation.”

As in every criminal case, the fact that an arrest has occurred or a complaint has been filed is merely an accusation; and the defendant, Josef Charles Raszler, is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.