An eastern Pennsylvania man accused of having used a homemade high-pressure air gun to kill a neighbor with whom he had had an affair has been convicted of first-degree murder.
Jurors in Lehigh County deliberated for less than three hours last week before convicting 41-year-old Josef Raszler in the September 2016 murder of 46-year-old Stephanie Roof in Lower Macungie Township. He faces a mandatory term of life in prison with possibility of parole when he is sentenced May 11.
Defense attorney Phil Lauer said he respected the jury’s verdict but vowed an appeal. The defendant’s father, Paul Raszler, said “We’re just heartbroken and very disappointed.”
Raszler was arrested in April 2017 after investigators concluded that he had built a powerful air gun out of pipes and high-pressure canisters and used it to shoot the mother of four in the chest in her driveway with a large projectile he fashioned from lead.
No weapon was found, but investigators said materials in his basement workshop could be used to make the weapon, and a detective did that using such materials and online instructions. Investigators said projectiles similar to the one that killed the victim were found on the grounds of a Schuylkill County cabin belonging to the defendant’s family.
Raszler took the stand in his own defense for about five hours, offering alternative mechanical projects as an explanation for the lead, pipes and other material prosecutors said was used to make the weapon, The (Allentown) Morning Call reported.
He acknowledged having been at the cabin the weekend before the shooting but had no explanation for the projectiles although he denied having engaged in target practice. Defense attorneys, who pointed to another person as a possible suspect, suggested that someone else could have planted the material.
Raszler acknowledged having sent scores of texts to Roof after they broke up around March 2015. In October 2015, Roof told him to stop contacting her or she would go to police, and prosecutors said he sent another 17 texts but then did not contact her in the 11 months before the killing. The defense said that showed he had moved on, but prosecutors said he was quietly simmering and angered anew when Roof’s new boyfriend moved in with her in April 2016.