WESTON, W.Va. — Three men were charged Thursday with killing two Lewis County women almost 14 years ago. The two women, Maxine Stalnaker, 69, and Mary Friend, 45, were last seen on Dec. 1, 1999.
Lewis County Sheriff Adam Gissy said good detective work led to breaks in the cold case and this week’s arrests.
“It’s been a four-and-a-half month investigation on our part, on top of the 14 years before us, and we compiled all the information, re-interviewed every party involved and then some, and then we were blessed to have been able to effect the arrests that we did,” Gissy said Thursday afternoon.
Joseph Metz, 39, was arraigned on two counts of murder, two counts of kidnapping and two counts of burglary in Lewis County Magistrate Court on Thursday and was being held in the Central Regional Jail on $250,000 bail. He is Friend’s son and Stalnaker’s grandson.
David Hughes, the former owner of Wilderness Plantation in Jane Lew, was being held at the Northwest Ohio Correction Center. He has also been charged with two counts of first-degree robbery, two counts of kidnapping and two counts of robbery for the deaths of Friend and Stalnaker.
A third suspect, Steve Freeman, was picked up Thursday afternoon by sheriff’s deputies in Napoleon, Ohio. He’s charged with kidnapping and robbery.
According to the criminal complaint, Hughes ordered Metz and Freeman to kill Stalnaker and Friend because he believed they had a journal full of information about illegal criminal transactions involving the men and the Wilderness Plantation. Hughes allegedly worried the women would turn over the information to law enforcement officers.
In the court filing, investigators said they believe the women were taken from their Fox Run home and moved to a home on Jesse’s Run Road, where their possessions, including a purse, were collected before they were killed. Their abandoned car was found a few days later off Route 19 in Harrison County.
The criminal complaint said Metz and Freeman met Hughes at the Wilderness Plantation, after the murders in December 1999, to turn over the journal.
Since 1999, there have been no signs of Stalnaker or Friend, except for a time in 2002 when a fisherman found one of their purses at Stonewall Jackson Lake.
“The term ‘cold case’ seems to simply mean ‘new challenge’ for these fine investigators,” said Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Smith. “I’ve been in this field for four decades. I’ve never seen a better investigation run. They are certainly to be commended.”
Officials said the investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information about the case can call local law enforcement offices or the Lewis County Sheriff’s Department at 304-269-8251.