Authorities dispute suspect's claims he accidentally stabbed elderly woman to death

2014-06-17T20:30:00Z 2014-06-18T10:18:05Z Authorities dispute suspect's claims he accidentally stabbed elderly woman to deathStan Maddux Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
June 17, 2014 8:30 pm  • 

LAPORTE | A 47-year-old LaPorte man was charged with murder Tuesday in the death of a woman whose icy body was found inside a freezer in her LaPorte home.

Daniel Shoffner, who lived with the victim, was charged in LaPorte Circuit Court. He was taken into custody Sunday night.

He is expected to be arraigned Friday before Judge Tom Alevizos.

The victim was identified as Birdie Elder.

LaPorte County Coroner John Sullivan said she was in her 70s and had been dead for "some time."

The probable cause affidavit states the killing occurred on or about June 13 based on the testimony of Shoffner, who allegedly told police he and Elder had been consuming alcohol at her home at 116 McClung Road when they got into an argument about her family.

He moved in with Elder several months ago after her husband died, according to neighbors.

Shoffner said he was demonstrating his "knife moves" when he accidentally stabbed her in the neck, according to the probable cause affidavit.

The affidavit states Shoffner told investigators he also stabbed her in the chest and thought she also was stabbed in the hand from trying to block the blade. He said he held Elder after she collapsed for 10 to 20 minutes before she died, according to the affidavit.

Shoffner said he then stuffed the petite 5-foot-2-inch woman into the roughly 3-feet-tall-by-2-feet-wide chest freezer "to keep her cool," according to the affidavit.

Shoffner disposed of the green folding knife in a plastic trash bag that he sat on the porch, where police recovered the blood-stained weapon Sunday night, according to the affidavit.

Shoffner also claimed he took some of Elder's Xanax tablets, injected insulin into his stomach and then slashed his wrists trying to kill himself, according to the court documents.

Shoffner said he was out for about two days before going to the hospital to get stitched up.

According to the affidavit, Shoffner told his daughter he had killed Elder, but she thought he was drunk and didn't believe him.

It wasn’t until he was crying during another talk with his daughter and telling her that he was serious that she called 911, the affidavit states.

Sullivan said an autopsy still had not been conducted because the body wasn't fully thawed.

He said expected the examination to happen Thursday or Friday.

LaPorte County Prosecutor Bob Szilagyi previously said the body was "frozen solid" when found.

Despite no autopsy findings yet, LaPorte County Deputy Prosecutor Chris Fronk said the account given by Shoffner and other evidence shows the death was no accident.

He would not comment further.

Neighbor Robert Peals, 69, said Elder was in good shape physically and recently took a part-time job as an at-home caregiver.

"She was a nice lady," he said. "She was a happy-go-lucky-type person."

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