During a hearing in Shenandoah County General District Court, prosecutors voluntarily dismissed charges on Tuesday against an Edinburg man accused of killing an elderly woman last spring. But, the defendant isn’t necessarily in the clear just yet.
Claude Delmus Shafer Jr., 36, faced felony charges of first-degree murder, breaking and entering and grand larceny.
Commonwealth's Attorney Amanda Wisely said dropping the case in district court is common prosecution option.
"I remain committed to seeing that all criminal activity in Shenandoah County is punished to the full extent of the law," she said in a statement. "However, sometimes, the preliminary hearing can place the prosecution at a disadvantage or circumstances may exist that are beyond the control of the prosecution. In those cases, it is often more fitting to dismiss the charges in the district court and seek a bill of indictment in the circuit court."
He has been held without bond in Shenandoah County Jail since June 17, when he was arrested and charged with the slaying of Phyllis Henrietta Kline, 65. Kline was found dead in her Edinburg home on June 16. Details on how she was killed haven’t been released.
Shafer is still being held in jail on a probation violation charge. He is due to appear in Shenandoah County Circuit Court on April 16, the same day the county’s grand jury is scheduled to convene.
It’s possible that prosecutors will present the murder case to grand jurors that day. If the breaking and entering and grand larceny charges are upgraded to a robbery charge, prosecutors could seek an indictment for capital murder, making Shafer eligible for the death penalty.