Accused killer waives preliminary hearing

A man who police say murdered his wife at their home in Southeast Clarke County last month waived his right to a preliminary hearing Tuesday.

William Darwin Joseph Studstill, 30, was scheduled to appear in Athens-Clarke Magistrate Court on Tuesday afternoon, but his attorney decided to forgo the proceeding to minimize pretrial publicity.

"I didn't think it would be beneficial to either side before we have jury selection," Athens attorney Edward Tolley said.

Athens-Clarke police say Studstill murdered 33-year-old Stephanie Ann Studstill on Nov. 17, when he stabbed her repeatedly with a butcher knife in their Clarke Gardens apartment on Carriage Court off Barnett Shoals Road.

When a defendant asks for a preliminary hearing, prosecutors must prove to a judge they have enough evidence to support criminal charges before a case can be bound over to Clarke County Superior Court for indictment.

Serious charges such as murder almost never are dismissed or reduced at the magistrate court level, but defense attorneys sometimes ask for preliminary hearings to get a preview of the evidence against their clients.

Tolley said he will wait until prosecutors supply him with their evidence prior to trial, as they are required to do under state law.

"Preliminary hearings aren't as useful as they once were," Tolley said.

He expects Studstill will be indicted in January, when a Clarke County grand jury convenes after the holidays.

After Stephanie Studstill was murdered, police said, William Studstill drove to his mother's house in Decatur, where he called 911 to report he had "just killed his whole family" in Athens.

He didn't harm anyone else, however, according to police.

Police surrounded the mother's home, but Studstill came out on his own and surrendered.

Stephanie Studstill's death came two months after she declined to press charges against her husband when officers responded to a disturbance at their apartment, according to a police report.

On Sept. 29, William Studstill apparently had some sort of breakdown and was suicidal, police said.

Stephanie Studstill told officers her husband had tried to blow up the microwave oven by loading it with aerosol cans and a lamp, and later tried to break her neck while she was in bed, according to police.

She mentioned that he hadn't been taking his medication, but police didn't disclose the type of medication because of medical privacy laws.

Emergency medical workers already had taken William Studstill to a hospital by the time police arrived, so officers didn't have a chance to talk to him.

His wife was upset and crying, but she didn't have any marks on her neck, police said, and an officer gave her a report number in case she wanted to pursue charges.

William Studstill is held without bail at the Clarke County Jail on two counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault.

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