(MTN News-HELENA) James Stiffler, accused of killing a home intruder in May 2013, testified in his own defense in court on Monday.

Stiffler is accused of fatally shooting Henry Johnson on May 22, 2013.

After the prosecution rested its case on Monday morning, Stiffler took the stand recalling that he felt a “cold fear” grab him when he saw Henry Johnson through a window at his home on May 22, 2013.

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Stiffler said he was not sure if his wife was home at the time, so he went inside armed with a handgun.

Stiffler told the jury that Johnson clenched his fist at him and yelled, “I am going to hurt you! I am going to hurt you!”

That is when Stiffler said he shot Johnson.

When asked if he was remorseful, Stiffler responded emotionally, saying yes, and that he says a prayer for Johnson and his family every day.

Here is part of Stiffler’s testimony:

May 22, 2013 was just another day, and started with the normal routine. My wife and I went to work early that morning.  I knew that day I would go to work for a couple of hours, and return home to meet with a roofer to talk about shingles, and a carpenter for an estimate for a roof over our deck.  I got to work around 9/9:30 am, worked a couple hours, and then headed to the gas station to fill my car up.  At the gas station I saw a friend, who I chatted with for about 5 minutes or so before  I headed home.

As I stopped to pick up my mail,  I saw a car off the distance at my home which I assumed was the roofer. I continued to drive toward my house when I felt cold fear grab me.  In the driveway I saw a old blue Ford Taurus parked, and thought that is weird that cannot be the roofer as the roofer has a truck. 

I drove around my property which is when I saw a man in my home.  A man I did not recognize and knew it was illegal for him to be in there.  My mind drew a blank, and because I thought my wife was in the house, I grabbed my handgun out of my briefcase and walked into my home.  My wife is my world, and could not live with myself if something happened to her.

When I approached my front door it was broken down, and it was obvious it had to be someone who was bigger, stronger, and heavier then me because that was a security door. I walked into my home and yelled, “Is anyone there?” which is when I heard a crash sound in the back.  

When I walked more into my home I saw Johnson standing at the back door which looked like he was trying to get out but he could not, for some reason. I yelled, “STOP!” which is when Johnson turned, clenched his fist and charged at me yelling “I am going to hurt you, I am going to hurt you!” 

At that moment I took a shot as I was fearful for my life, and had no idea what Johnson was capable of. 

I did not know where I had shot him, or if I had shot him as he ran into the next room, out of the window.

I then heard gravel hitting the house, and thought I should grab his license plate number. When I stepped out on my porch I saw the car crashed into the chain fence and Johnson was making odd movement in the car. That was the moment when I dialed 911, but took me three attempts to call as I was so shaken up.

When defense attorneys asked Stiffler why he asked for an ambulance, his response was, “Johnson was making weird movements in the car, and I was afraid he got hurt.  I did not know he was shot, did not see any blood on the car, I was just afraid.”

Stiffler says he never intended for anyone to get hurt, or killed.

Stiffler then gave full consent to police to search his residence, and was told by police that he did the right thing and it was self-defense.

At the end of Monday’s court session, Stiffler became emotional and said he is extremely saddened by what happened.

He did not know Johnson, but he feared for his life as he thought he would have died or got hurt. He reiterated that he never intended for anyone to get killed, and will take this to his grave.

When defense attorneys asked him would he have done differently, Stiffler responded: “I would change what had happened in a heartbeat. I never intended for anyone to get hurt. I have never been so fearful in my life, and have not pulled my gun out in any situation. I did not expect this to ever happen to me.  If I knew my wife was not home I would have not gone inside my home.”

The trial continues on Tuesday.


Reporter: Alana Cunningham