ELYRIA — Jeremy Diestler said Thursday he shot Matthew Stinson 10 times because he was upset that his drug dealer was trying to sell him a bad batch of heroin.
“It was ’cause he stole my money, and he was trying to rip me off with bad drugs,” Diestler said at one point while on the stand in the eighth day of his aggravated murder trial.
Diestler denied that he’d gone to Stinson’s Wesley Avenue apartment in Elyria on Sept. 17, 2014, to kill Stinson as Assistant Lorain County Prosecutor Donna Freeman has argued throughout the case.
Instead, Diestler, 32, said he had gone there to get heroin that he used to treat his chronic back pain.
He said the 25-year-old Stinson had promised him high-quality heroin, which he referred to as “fire,” but the bag of heroin wasn’t what he wanted to buy with the $1,000 he’d scraped together for the deal.
Diestler said he tasted the heroin and it was bland, a sign to him that it had been cut with some other substance.
Diestler testified he tried to return the drugs to Stinson and get his money back, but Stinson refused and at one point lifted his hoodie to show a black handle that Diestler said he assumed was a gun. Police said they found only a hunting knife, heroin and $800 in cash on Stinson’s body after he’d been shot.
Upset, Diestler said he returned to his truck where he had an AR-10 rifle he’d stolen from his father.
“From there I bugged out,” he said. “I grabbed the rifle that was in the back of the truck. I started firing at him.”
Freeman has said Stinson was hit once in the chest and four times in the back as he fled the shooting and collapsed at the bottom of a staircase in the apartment building.
“I wasn’t aiming at him,” he said later in the day. “I was just randomly firing.”
With the five rounds in the AR-10’s magazine gone, Diestler said he tossed the rifle back in his truck and ran after Stinson with the pistol in hand.
He said he fired at Stinson multiple times before firing up the stairwell after hearing a voice at the top. He said he thought it was friends of Stinson’s in his apartment coming after him with weapons.
As he lay on the ground, Stinson was shot five times in the head. Stinson’s neighbor, Angela Wade, also was grazed in the shoulder by a bullet.
After the shooting, Diestler said he got into his truck and drove to his mother’s Grafton home where he was staying, did some laundry and took a shower before going to bed. He was pulled over and arrested by Elyria police the next morning while driving with his then-fiancee’s children.
Diestler expressed remorse for the killing while on the stand as well.
“To this day, I’m still, I’m very sorry that something like this happened,” he said.
But on cross-examination, Freeman attacked Diestler’s version of events. She asked why if Diestler was so angry with Stinson he didn’t pull out the handgun he was carrying and shoot him.
She said it was more likely that Diestler shot Stinson with the rifle from around 70 feet away before closing in to shoot him again with the pistol.
Freeman also said that Diestler’s comments to police after his arrest made it clear he wanted to kill Stinson. She said he talked to detectives about a “three strikes” rule and how someone who wronged him three times would be dead, although Diestler said he didn’t mean deceased.
“I did say dead, but I did not mean it as in dead,” he said. “I meant it as in, ‘You’re dead to me’ as a figure of speech, of saying that I don’t mess with you, I don’t do business with you anymore, I don’t contact you any longer.”
Defense attorney Jack Bradley and Michael Stepanik contend that Diestler killed because he was angry, not because he had planned to do so before arriving at the apartment complex. They hope to convince jurors to acquit their client of the aggravated murder charges and instead convict him of lesser manslaughter charges.
Stepanik tried to bolster the image of Stinson as a dangerous man during the testimony of Elyria police Officer Eric Grove, who showed jurors several handguns, pellet guns, swords, knives and other weapons officers found inside Stinson’s room.
Freeman countered that Stinson had been a martial arts aficionado who collected swords.
The trial resumes this morning before county Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi.
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