EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSThree Men In Custody In Connection With 1999 Lewis County Slayings
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Leslie Rubin
Web Producer: Jeff Morris
Also Contributing: WDTV
Reported: Sep. 20, 2013 10:52 AM EDT
Updated: Sep. 20, 2013 7:06 PM EDT
Weston, Lewis County , West Virginia
A 14-year-old Lewis County cold case is cracked wide open with the arrests of three men in connection to the murder and disappearance of a mother and daughter.
The disappearance of Mary Friend and Maxine Stalnaker shook the county to it's core in 1999. Their pictures still hang around town, investigators were always looking for that big break that some feared would never come. Now, shocking details are coming to light suggesting the answers lied within the family.
"I'm glad that it's over but I'm hurt that part of my family had to be the one that done it," said Pamela Smith. Smith is Stalnaker's daughter and Friend's sister.
For 14 years, Smith has struggled with not knowing where her mother and sister were. They were last seen leaving their home in December 1999 for a Christmas shopping trip. Their car was found in Harrison County five days later and their purses were recovered from Stonewall Jackson Lake in 2002. But the mystery surrounding their disappearance grew with every passing year.
"It's been a long, hard process and it's just like a wound that's just been opened up again," Smith said.
Now Smith must struggle knowing that her nephew, Joseph Metz, 39, is allegedly behind their murder. Metz is accused of robbing, kidnapping, and killing his own mother and grandmother.
"What can I say? I'm accused of something I didn't do," Metz said after he was arrested.
He claims his innocence, but investigators say Metz didn't carry out the crime alone. Also charged are Steve Freeman and David Hughes. Investigators believe Hughes ordered Metz and Freeman to kill the women because they had a tablet full of information about illegal criminal transactions involving the men and the Wilderness Plantation in Jane Lew where Hughes was the owner.
"Dave Hughes and Steve Freeman are saying I did stuff I never even talked to them about," Metz said.
The women's bodies have not been recovered and investigators are staying tight lipped on details of how they believe they were killed. But for those waiting for justice for more than a decade, it's a mixed feeling of emotions knowing the alleged killer was among them the entire time.
"I loved Joe as if he was my son, and I don't know how he could have done this," Smith said.
Freeman and Hughes are in custody outside of the state, but will be extradited to Lewis County to face these charges.
Lewis County investigators would not comment if there is an active search for the women's remains.
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