Neighbors stunned by slaying arrests 2 brothers charged in killing of boy in '82

September 28, 1997|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF News researchers Leigh Poitinger and Andrea Wilson contributed to this article.

Marie Aubrey doesn't want to believe that Roger and John Stump -- whose cowboy and Indian figures she still finds in her flower beds two decades after they stopped playing with them -- might have killed a younger child.

In working-class Middle River, where the Stump brothers grew up, married and started families, people shudder at the suggestion that two neighborhood boys might have battered and strangled a 10-year-old, then tied him to a river piling.

Neighbors and friends knew that the Stump boys had had their share of run-ins with the law in recent years -- drugs, alcohol, fights, thefts -- but not this, they say. Surely, not this.

"I don't want to believe that anyone I knew and liked did this," says a visibly shaken Aubrey. "The whole neighborhood's upset."

John, 31, and Roger, 32, are accused of killing a boy in 1982 -- when they were 15 and 17 and living at home with their parents, an older brother and a younger sister.

Young Adam Faulkner lived a few streets from the Stumps' rowhouse. Late one summer night, Adam slipped out of his mother's house with his comforter, a new fishing rod and his bike.

Four days later, his body was found naked, battered, wrapped in the comforter and tied to his bike and a piling in the Middle River at HawthornePark.

John and Roger Stump were arrested Sept. 17 and charged with first-degree murder in Adam's death. No trial date has been set. Both men are being held in the Baltimore County Detention Center, and both declined The Sun's requests for interviews.

The arrests brought relief and fresh pain to Chessa LeAnne Barnett, Adam's mother, who has marked the day of her son's birth and the day of his death every year by floating flowers on the nearest body of water.

"Fifteen years I've waited," she said the day the Stumps were arrested. Her memories of Adam remained clear: "He was like a cross between the absent-minded professor and Huck Finn."

News of the Stumps' arrests shocked many who knew them, including Aubrey, who recalled that they were suspects early on but passed a lie-detector test.

"It's scary I could live across the street from somebody capable of doing this and never know it," said Tom DiNatale, whose house faces the home of John and Susan Stump and their two children.

Aubrey, who has known the Stump brothers all their lives, cannot reconcile her memories with the murder charges.

"Johnny was shy. Roger was much more outgoing," she recalled. Their father had a boatyard, and their mother was a homemaker.

When the Stumps moved next door in 1965, Roger was a baby. Then Johnny was born, and then a sister. Eventually, the household included four children, several Pomeranians, ferrets, fish, parrots, parakeets -- even a monkey.

Sports and girls succeeded cowboys and Indians when the boys reached adolescence, Aubrey said, and she saw less of them.

Roger played football at nearby Kenwood High School; Johnny played soccer. Roger weeded Aubrey's garden and cut her grass to earn money; Johnny preferred fishing.

After high school, Roger joined the Marines, and Johnny worked at a local marina with his father.

Roger got married, left the Marines and had two sons. In 1990, he and his wife divorced. "Roger was devastated," Aubrey said.

John married, too, and was a mechanic at marinas. "He is supposed to be one of the best boat mechanics in Maryland," said DiNatale.

Meanwhile, the police kept coming back to the Faulkner case. Detectives returned again and again to Hawthorne Park.

They also kept coming back to the Stumps, who were first interviewed shortly after Adam Faulkner's body was found.

"Fifteen years ago, when this happened, two detectives came to my house," Mary Stump said. She has moved out of state and spoke only on condition that her whereabouts not be published.

Her sons volunteered to take the lie-detector test, she said, and when they did, the police backed off.

"They said to me and my husband, 'They passed the lie-detector test. They are clear of this,' " she said.

But it wasn't the end of the Stumps' contact with police.

John Stump was convicted in federal court of operating a boat in a manner that endangered life or property after an accident Sept. 17, 1988.

Patrick Hartnett was on his boat with two other men on the Gunpowder River when a larger boat, driven by John Stump, ran over them. The men in Hartnett's boat were in the water yelling for help after the crash, but Stump's boat circled, then left.

"Our boat was underwater. We're lucky all three of us didn't die that night," Hartnett said. "It completely cut my boat in half."

The three grabbed flotation devices and swam for two hours to reach Aberdeen Proving Ground. John Stump was already there, having beached his damaged boat on the rocks and walked ashore with his passenger.

John Stump was sentenced to four days in jail, ordered to pay restitution and given three years of federal probation. He was sentenced to community service for violating probation.

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