Stabbing suspect to stand trial for murder
POTTSTOWN » All charges against the homeless man accused of stabbing a 35-year-old man to death during a fight on High Street July 30 were held over for trial on Friday.
During the preliminary hearing, District Judge Edward C. Kropp Sr. wasted no time in confirming the charges of first-degree murder, third-degree murder and possessing the instrument of a crime against Steven
Holmes, 54, and setting a formal arraignment on those charges for Nov. 22 in Montgomery County Court.
According to court records and testimony offered Friday by Montgomery County Detective Todd Richard, Holmes stabbed Diamonde Stone during an altercation in the 300 block of High Street.
Richard testified that Holmes admitted to the crime on Aug. 22 after being apprehended in Philadelphia where he had fled after the stabbing. Holmes said Stone had struck him first and that the fight they were having was about crystal meth, an illegal narcotic.
Stone also told Richard that Stone had been saying cruel things about his girlfriend Carolyn Ayala and that a second male was also striking him during his altercation with Stone.
Richard and Pottstown Detective Thomas Lehan had tracked Holmes to the city after he was identified on July 31 as the primary suspect in the murder.
His identification as a suspect occurred on July 31 after Richard and Pottstown Police Detective Heather Long interviewed Denise Butler, who lives in the 300 block of High Street and had let Holmes and Ayala stay in her apartment overnight.
Butler told police she had heard the fight and afterward Ayala came in and said Holmes had “stomped ‘Clutch,’” a nickname for the murder victim. Ayala was followed into the apartment by Holmes who had “blood on his arm.”
After learning Stone had died, Butler told the couple to talk to the police, according to the affidavit of probable cause, but they left her apartment and left behind a black bag which Butler put outside the apartment and showed to police when she was interviewed.
Richard, who had Holmes’ cell phone number due to numerous previous contacts with him, called Holmes and a phone inside the bag began to ring, he testified.
After looking for Holmes for weeks, Richard acted on information he was hiding in Philadelphia. When he and Lehan went to search, they saw Holmes and Ayala walking on the street near the intersection of Emerald and Lehigh streets in the West Kensington area of the city, Richard testified.
Under cross examination from Holmes’s public defender Carrie Allman, Richard also testified that Holmes had told him he was a heroin user, a fact Richard had been aware
of since 2015 when Holmes testified in a case for Richard.
Holmes, who sat in court handcuffed to a leather belt around a red prison jump suit that exposed the tatoos on both forearms, did not testify.
Allman tried to argue that because the murder occurred during a fight, when Holmes was defending himself and his girlfriend, that the charge of first-degree murder should be dropped, but Kropp agreed with assistant district attorney Christopher Daniels that a preliminary hearing was not the place to make that decision.
After the hearing, Daniels told reporters that although this is not likely to be a death penalty case, the first-degree murder charge should be upheld because “you can pre-meditate a murder in a fraction of a second.”
He said the fact that, according to Richard’s testimony, Stone and Holmes had been separated when Holmes pulled a knife from his pants pocket, meant Holmes could have walked away or used the knife to threaten Stone to stop the fight.
“But instead, he ran at him and stabbed him in the heart. That shows a specific intent to kill,” said Daniels.
Steven Holmes, charged with murder in fatal Pottstown stabbing.
Diamonde Stone was stabbled to death on Aug. 22 in Pottstown.