PDT Staff Writer
Editor’s Note: Due to the sensitive nature of the story, the identities and ages of some specific key witnesses are being withheld from publication.
Seldom has a case with so few disputed facts from the parties involved, sparked such controversy.
The details of the Steven Holsinger shooting, based on several investigative documents, witness depositions and sheriff’s department reports, are that on the evening of July 12, Robert and Tyler Staker arrived at the home of Steven and Jennifer Holsinger to repossess a lawn mower. Over the course of 90 minutes to two hours, the Stakers rapped on the doors and windows of the Holsinger home asking for someone to come out and remove the lawn mower from an adjacent garage and turn it over to the Stakers’ possession. After such time, Steven Holsinger rushed out of the home’s doorway carrying a gun and confronted the Stakers. It is during the confrontation that Tyler Staker pulled his gun and shot and killed Holsinger.
Following that evening and over the course of a nine-week investigation of the shooting, the case and community was riddled with protests, wild speculation, rumors and outright falsehoods.
However, last week, the Daily Times exclusively reviewed previously unreported information that revealed there was a single eyewitness who observed the entire confrontation, including the shooting, and it was this eyewitness’ testimony that helped seal the Scioto County grand jury’s decision against indicting Tyler Staker of any criminal charges related to the shooting.
This eyewitness is, by all appearances, completely unrelated and independent of both the Stakers and the Holsingers. The eyewitness is the only person who may be deemed unbiased from all parties involved in the shooting.
Perhaps surprisingly, the eyewitness is old enough to be judged credible, but young enough to be called a child.
Bringing judicial closure to the case, a neighbor boy delivered crucial and convincing direct eyewitness testimony in a manner that was calm, quiet, concise and devoid of emotion unlike the ongoing reactions of adults within the community over a case fueled by unrestrained raw emotion.
Scioto County Prosecutor Mark Kuhn was asked if he felt the testimony of the boy was crucial to the case.
“Absolutely,” Kuhn said. “You watch his statement and it’s compelling. It’s a compelling statement. You’ve got to put it in the context of a kid at a traumatic event, dark conditions, and bad lighting conditions, obstacles there in the driveway. But, it’s a compelling statement especially when you put that in light of what does everyone else say? What does Mrs. Holsinger say? What are the Stakers saying? What is the boy’s mother saying? His older brother? When you put it in the context of the other neighbors who came and told them they weren’t home - when you put it all in context it fits in with the other testimonies. I think that’s why it’s compelling.”
The child neighbor of Steve Holsinger testified that he saw everything that happened on the night in which Tyler Staker reportedly shot Holsinger on his property.
The boy testified before a Scioto County grand jury looking into the case, as did the boy’s mother, and after 6 1/2 hours of looking at that case the grand jury declined to hand down any indictment against Staker.
In Ohio, a grand jury must have at least seven out of the nine anonymous members endorse an indictment in order for the case the move forward.
The boy and his mother told authorities that the boy was in the yard playing when the incident occurred. In a deposition taken by Scioto County Sheriff’s Detective Jodi Conkel, the boy told what he saw develop after the Stakers arrived at the Holsinger residence at 9550 Old Gallia Pike in Wheelersburg. According to all witnesses, the Stakers had been knocking on the door on and off for hours before the incident occurred.
“Steve got tired and he ran outside with a gun,” the boy said.
Conkel asked him to show how he was holding the gun, and the boy responded that it was in his pocket.
“Then he pulled it out and started aiming it at them,” the boy said.
Conkel asked the boy what the Stakers were doing.
“They (the Stakers) kept telling him (Holsinger) to put it down and he wouldn’t, so he shot him,” the boy responded.
“Did you see which guy shot Steve?” Conkel asked.
“The son (Tyler),” The boy said. “They shot five, but they hit him three.”
He said Holsinger’s wife, Jennifer, tried to call the sheriff’s office and a neighbor called, as did Robert Staker.
The boy said he saw Jennifer Holsinger at the time of the shooting.
“She was on the porch and she kept telling Steve to put the gun down,” the boy said.
“Where was Steve?” Conkel asked.
“I couldn’t hardly see him because the truck was in the way. Then I saw him running. That’s when they shot him.”
“He was running towards them with the gun pointed out?” Conkel asked.
The boy responded in the affirmative.
In her deposition, the boy’s mother said of the Stakers, “they knocked, and they knocked, and they knocked” for an-hour-and-a-half. “Bob was hollering through the window for him to come out and give them the mower.”
The mother said she gathered her children and brought them inside, however, one boy, the witness, remained in the yard.
“… when I saw Steve charging out that door.” the mother said.
“How do you mean charging?” Conkel asked.
“Oh my gosh, I’ve never seen him do this, that wasn’t Steve,” the mother said. “He slung open the back door of the house, and swung screen door and ran out those stairs. I didn’t see his gun, and I had the screen door shut and I couldn’t make out the voices. I heard Steve screaming. I knew that was him screaming. It happened so fast. I knew it was going to come out bad. I heard someone three times say, ‘Put your gun down, put your gun down’ three times. My (other child), he saw flashes come off the gun. My (child who witnessed the shooting) was out in the yard, and I was mad that he was out there.”
She said as soon as the shooting was over she heard Jennifer Holsinger screaming for someone to call 911, and she saw Robert Staker on the phone with a county 911 operator.
“I lost it,” the mother said. “I ran to the kid, Tyler (Staker), because I thought, man, he was my daughter’s age. I thought it was him. I asked Tyler what happened. He said, ‘he came running out of his house with a gun,’ and I (the mother) didn’t know if Steve had a gun or not. I knew Steve has guns. But I asked Tyler what happened, and he said, ‘He came running out of the house with a gun pointing it at me, so I kept telling him to put it down,’ and he said he wouldn’t do it, he said, ‘I shot him.’ Tyler started bawling. He was so upset.”
In the prosecutor’s documents was a statement by Jennifer Holsinger in which she said the Stakers pulled onto the driveway and started knocking on the doors and windows. She said a neighbor told Robert and Tyler Staker they were not home, “and Bob told the neighbor they would just wait for Steve to come back.” Jennifer Holsinger told authorities, “the knocking stopped, but later started again and a neighbor texted (Jennifer) saying Steve may want to come out because the guys were going to call the sheriff.”
Jennifer Holsinger stated Steve Holsinger went upstairs and got his gun and went out the door.
According to the statement, Jennifer Holsinger said she begged him not to take the gun, but Steve Holsinger said he was taking the gun because, “Bob and his son were big men.” Jennifer Holsinger stated she could hear them, but couldn’t make out what they were saying. The statement says Jennifer Holsinger told officers she went out onto the porch and could not see if Steve Holsinger had the gun pulled on Tyler Staker because it was dark. She said the only thing she could remember is that her husband said, “You’ve got three seconds to get off the property,” then, she said, she heard shots and her husband hit the ground.
She said she tried to call 911, but could not, so she handed her phone to her neighbor, and she said Robert Staker also called 911. She said Robert and Tyler Staker waited for the deputy to show up. Jennifer Holsinger was asked if Robert Staker had a gun and she said no.
According to the documents in the Prosecutor’s office, both Tyler and Robert Staker were read their Miranda rights and were detained in Sheriff deputies’ cruisers.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at email@example.com