A DuBois man accused of fatally stabbing his girlfriend was found guilty of first-degree murder Wednesday after a three-day trial in Clearfield County Court.
Joseph Fields, 36, was also found guilty of aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person. The jury deliberated for less than an hour.
Fields took the stand in his own defense Tuesday admitting to the crimes. His attorney, Mike Marshall, explained this was not a “who done it” case but a situation where the jury would have to determine whether this was a first- or third-degree murder.
In his testimony, Fields outlined his version of the events that led to the death of Nicole Snyder in the early morning hours of Sept. 22. He said they argued for two hours after she accused him of cheating on her. Eventually she asked him to leave. He said he went to grab his knife that he always keeps with him and planned to sleep on the porch. The last thing he says he remembers is Snyder saying she was going to call her brother.
“I ended up stabbing her in the chest,” Fields said without any emotion.
He stated that she was kicking and screaming at him, and they wrestled as he stabbed her in the neck.
At this point, their 7-year-old child was awake and the dog was going crazy, he said. Fields claimed he dialed 911 and handed the phone to Snyder. When the police pulled up to the duplex, he told the boy to answer the door, and Fields fled out a back door.
As to why he stabbed her, Fields stated, “I just snapped.”
He claimed he did not know she was dead until he received a text message from an aunt just before he surrendered to police. A manhunt to find him lasted about 15 hours until he was located in Penfield near the victim’s mother’s home.
Earlier in the trial, police officers testified that when they arrived at the home in response to an open-line 911 call, they knocked several times before the boy with blood on his clothing opened the door. According to testimony at the preliminary hearing, the boy told police that “he (Fields) killed mommy.”
EMS personnel responded quickly to the scene but they were unable to save her.
In his closing arguments, District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. reviewed the testimony of a doctor who said Snyder suffered four stab wounds in the neck and her windpipe had been severed.
Marshall, in his closing, conceded that Fields was guilty of the other charges but argued this was a case of third-degree and not first-degree murder. Marshall said Fields did not intend to kill her.
He pointed to the fact Fields was reacting in anger and stated, “when anger takes over, there is no intent.” He reminded the jury that Fields is the one who called 911 to get help for the victim.
Shaw countered this in his closing, saying there was no evidence Fields is the one who called 911, adding, “Who stabs someone in the neck if they are not intending to kill them?”
In an interview after the verdict was read, Shaw said Fields will receive a mandatory life sentence when he is sentenced within 60 days. Shaw praised the DuBois city and Sandy Township police departments as well as state police for their handling of the case, as well as all who assisted with the manhunt.