NEWPORT TWP. - On the day his bond was set at half a million dollars on charges he murdered his neighbor, Mark Stevens was described by people who lived near him as someone who behaved erratically and made people uncomfortable.
The 48-year-old Stevens, of 285 Bells Run Road in Newport Township, was arrested Wednesday on a charge of murder in the 2008 death of Patrick Arnold, found dead from a single gunshot wound to the chest on the front porch of his home across the road from Stevens.'
"It's crazy. I can't believe it was who it was," said Tracy Tidd, who lives east of Stevens and Arnold on Bells Run Road. "He's weird, but we never thought he would do something like that."
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
Murder suspect Mark Stevens, right, is shown on a screen in Marietta Municipal Court during a video arraignment from the Washington County Jail. To his left is Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Richelle Bobo.
Another Bells Run Road resident, Anthony Murphy, 56, said the news "didn't surprise me one bit."
Murphy said he would speak to Stevens outside, but would not let him in his home.
"He would just walk into people's houses for no reason," he said.
About the hearing
- Bond was set at $500,000 Thursday for Mark F. Stevens, accused in the 2008 murder of his neighbor, Patrick Arnold.
- A preliminary hearing was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Monday before Marietta Municipal Court Judge Janet Dyar-Welch.
Stevens has a history of mental illness, Washington County Public Defender Ray Smith said Thursday during an arraignment hearing in Marietta Municipal Court. Stevens appeared via video link from the Washington County Jail.
Judge Janet Dyar-Welch set Stevens' bond at $500,000, the amount recommended by Assistant Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings, who was contacted by Welch's bailiff by phone.
Smith did not request a specific bond amount, but indicated to Dyar-Welch that he did not consider his client a significant flight risk, noting Stevens has lived in the area all his life and always shown up for court before.
Stevens was found incompetent to stand trial on an attempted murder charge in 1985, Washington County Sheriff's deputies said. Municipal court records indicate several other charges, including guilty pleas for public indecency in 2010 and 2011 and a misdemeanor charge for operating a vehicle while intoxicated in 2011.
Stevens did not speak during the brief arraignment hearing except to answer "yes" to a question from the judge about whether he filled out a form requesting needed medication and to ask an inaudible question of the deputy in the room with him.
Stevens was arrested Wednesday based on information developed from a confidential informant who said the man admitted being involved in the murder. According to an affidavit of facts filed with the court, Stevens initially denied the accusation but later said he and Arnold had struggled for possession of a gun, which discharged, striking the victim.
The affidavit says Stevens also indicated the location of the murder weapon, and deputies were searching Wednesday and Thursday behind Arnold's Bells Run Road home. However, they left the site around 10:45 a.m. Thursday, apparently empty-handed.
"We did not find what we're looking for, but we're finished at that location," Sheriff Larry Mincks said, declining to elaborate.
Mincks said the weapon is believed to be a shotgun but did not say whether it belonged to Stevens or Arnold.
The arrest came a month after Arnold's sister, Becky Klintworth, had given up hope her brother's killer would be brought to justice.
"I finally gave up last month ... thinking, 'It's not going to happen,'" she said.
Klintworth, 47, of Devola, said she was excited to learn an arrest had been made, but surprised at who was actually arrested.
"I couldn't figure out why he would want to kill my brother," she said, noting Arnold had done some favors for Stevens like buying him beer since he couldn't drive himself. "I don't understand why you would kill somebody so nice."
Klintworth thanked the police for their work, as well as others who'd assisted them.
The news also brought a measure of relief to members of Millwright Local 1755 in Parkersburg, of which Arnold was a member.
"I'm glad something has been done," said Buddy Malone, service representative for the union. "We (were) kind of up in the air."
The union and Arnold's family put up a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for Arnold's death.
Mincks said the reward would not be given out until a conviction is obtained, and the individual who pointed the sheriff's office toward Stevens would probably not be considered.
"They received a (different) benefit. It wasn't actually monetary," the sheriff said, declining to release any more information about the person.