Baltimore County jury finds man guilty in fatal stabbing case

(Baltimore County Police…)
September 22, 2014|By Jessica Anderson | The Baltimore Sun

A Baltimore County jury found an Anne Arundel County man guilty Monday in the fatal stabbing of a woman he once dated.

Jeffrey Shiflett, 35, was convicted of first-degree murder and related offenses in an attack in which he walked into Katie Hadel's Garrison apartment carrying a long knife and stabbed her nearly 30 times in front of her 2-year-old daughter.

Hadel was under police protection at the time of her death after years of harassment and threats from Shiflett.

As the verdict was read, Hadel's mother had tears in her eyes.

Hadel's husband, Craig Gordon, smiled after the verdict was read.

"Baltimore County did their job," he said as a prosecutor came over and hugged him and the detective in the case shook his hand.

Gordon said he was confident throughout the weeklong trial that a guilty verdict would be reached.

Despite the overwhelming evidence prosecutors provided against Shiflett, including his clothes stained with Hadel's blood, and moving testimony of her then 12-year-old stepdaughter, who witnessed part of the attack, he proved to be a difficult defendant to prosecute.

"There were many challenges that came up during this trial and it was a very difficult case," said State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger, one of the prosecutors who argued the case.

On the first day of testimony, Circuit Judge Ruth Ann Jakubowski ordered that Shiflett wear a stun cuff while seated in the courtroom for security reasons after he made repeated comments, some obscene, some threatening, and fought with sheriff's deputies outside her chambers as they were preparing to take him into the courtroom.

Shiflett refused to wear the stun cuff but was able to listen to proceedings after court officials set up a video feed that allowed him to watch the trial from a secure location.

Shiflett's attorney, James A. Sorensen argued during the trial that his client's behavior showed he was not competent to stand trial, resulting in additional psychiatric evaluations, but the judge ultimately ruled Shiflett was competent and could control his outbursts.

After the trial concluded, Sorensen predicted that how Baltimore County handles security for cases such as this one eventually could become issues for the appellate court.

"There were several significant issues," he said referring to his client's absence from the courtroom and the issue of his client's competency.

During closing arguments, Sorensen said Shiflett is bipolar, manic-depressive and obsessive-compulsive. He argued that Shiflett's mental illnesses manifested in an obsession to contact Hadel. The two had dated, he said, and they were arrested together in 2007 in a robbery case in which she later testified against him.

"Impulsive is not premeditation," Sorensen told jurors.

When Shiflett was paroled in December 2012, he continued to try to contact Hadel, 33. Prosecutors said he became increasingly threatening. Court records show Hadel and her family requested at least three court orders seeking protection from Shiflett.

After Shiflett made repeated attempts to contact her and he failed to check in with his parole officer, he violated the conditions of his release and faced additional prison time, which aggravated him more, Sorensen said in court.

By early February 2013, he left his father's Annapolis home, walking all the way to Hadel's Garrison apartment to speak to her, and briefly camped out in woods near her home.

Shiflett managed to get inside the home Feb. 5, carrying a long knife with which he struck her multiple times in what prosecutors described as particularly violent attack. Prosecutors showed pictures of cuts all over Hadel's body.

During the attack, Hadel's stepdaughter, hysterical and crying, and wearing only her pajamas, ran to another apartment where a neighbor called police.

Tactical officers responded to the home, using a detonation device to break through the dead-bolted apartment door. Inside, they found Hadel's body facedown in the bathtub where she had been preparing a bath for her young daughter. The officers found the little girl hiding under the bed. Another child, whom Hadel had been baby sitting, also was in the apartment.

Shiflett was arrested the next morning after an officer on patrol spotted him walking along a road in Reisterstown. His clothes were dirty and covered in blood.

"He started talking about in 2010," Shellenberger said during his closing argument, referring to threatening messages Shiflett sent to Hadel. "Then he did it in 2013."

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