Homeless man faces charges in murder
by Lindsay Field
December 20, 2011 02:01 AM | 24533 views | 5 5 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Joseph Stahl, 71, was discovered dead in his home off Pisgah Road in Austell by a family member Sunday afternoon. Police believe he died from blunt force trauma and have arrested 47-year-old Thomas Duane Sparks in connection with Stahl's murder. <br> Photo by Lindsay Field
Joseph Stahl, 71, was discovered dead in his home off Pisgah Road in Austell by a family member Sunday afternoon. Police believe he died from blunt force trauma and have arrested 47-year-old Thomas Duane Sparks in connection with Stahl's murder.
Photo by Lindsay Field
AUSTELL — Cobb County police have arrested a homeless man in connection with the murder of 71-year-old Joseph Stahl of Austell on Sunday.

Thomas Duane Sparks, 47, is being held in the Cobb County Jail without bond on felony charges of murder, aggravated assault and theft by taking. Sparks is also accused of violating his probation.

A police report also accuses Sparks of stealing Stahl’s burgundy 1994 Honda Accord.

Fulton County Police arrested Sparks at 9:50 p.m. Sunday as he was leaving the Skyway Inn Suites Hotel located at 4430 Frederick Drive in Atlanta in the Accord.

Cobb County Police Officer Dana Pierce said Stahl and Sparks were “acquaintances” and that Sparks had once rented a room from Stahl.

Pierce said one of Stahl’s family members, whom he could not identify, called 911 at 5:48 p.m. Sunday after finding the victim dead in his home in the 6400 block of Pisgah Road in south Cobb.

Stahl reportedly died from “obvious … blunt force trauma” injuries, but Pierce was unable to comment on the murder weapon because the investigation is ongoing.

“We do not know a motive either, but taking the car was mentioned,” Pierce said.

Pierce was also unable to say when Stahl was killed.

Stahl was last seen by neighbors Tony and Patty Wheeler around 7 p.m. Saturday. Patty Wheeler grew up in the home next to Stahl’s and had moved back into her parent’s house nine years ago to help take care of her mother after her father passed away.

“We’ve known Joe forever,” Patty Wheeler said. “He loved his yard. He had a beautiful yard.”

Tony Wheeler said they did not see or hear anything unusual Saturday night or Sunday until he looked out the window and noticed crime scene tape and three police cars around Stahl’s home at 7 p.m. Sunday.

“I walked outside and stood at the fence and … Michael (Stahl, Joseph Stahl’s son) came over and told me that somebody had hit his dad over the head and hurt him real bad, but then I heard (police officers) talking to someone on the phone and they said that someone had bashed (Joseph Stahl’s) head in and he was dead,” Tony Wheeler said.

Cobb County Jail records show that Sparks had previously been arrested and booked on burglary, forgery and theft charges and a probation violation in 2001, burglary theft and obstruction charges in 2002, drugs and a probation violation in 2006 and, most recently, driving on a suspended license and criminal trespassing charges in May.

Larry Korn, the public defender who represented Sparks on June 30 during a hearing in the Superior Court of Cobb County for the May charges, was surprised to hear about Sparks’ arrest.

“This seems out of character for him,” he said. “He was actually kind of a decent, nice guy, not the sort that would fly off the handle at all.”

Korn said Sparks was living in the jail at the time of the hearing, so it was his guess that Sparks may have been homeless.

He said he had not been in contact with Sparks since the June 30 hearing.

According to Korn, Sparks was supposed to check into the Potter’s House in Atlanta for drug treatment after his release from the Cobb County Jail in June.

Stahl’s death is the 19th homicide investigated by his department this year.
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December 24, 2011
I'm a neighbor that lives across the street from Joe. And I always enjoyed our conversations and his kindness. Joe always gave me a helping hand when I needed something. Joe loved his yard so much and was in it almost everyday. The last words Joe said, to me was kiss the babies for me.
Laura Stickell
January 03, 2012
Can anyone provide any information about his burial? We have looked & looked online, but cannot find anything.

Laura S.
Miss Patty
December 22, 2011
Lisa and Michael: Your father is dancing with the angels and watching over all of us now.Joe was also an angel that served his God lovingly and always during his time here with us. I met Joe in 2007 and later was able to become a good friend. Joe, Jett and me spent many hours together doing alot of fun things, as well as being a recipient of his good works. I was a tenant of Jett's for approximately 2 years, and hardly a day went by that I didn't get to be graced with his witty humor, his loving smile and always having wisdom that enlightened my life tremendously. Joe was the smartest person that has ever crossed my path. He loved life and rather than dwelling on this horrible event that took him too soon, please Lisa, Michael, Scott and all other family members and good friends, (and he had many.......), we must move forward and share all our many wonderful memories with each other and not forget that our Loving God leaves us with these memories and know one can take them away.

I too suffered the loss of my only sibling, my brother in 2003 at the hand of someone who had no reason to choose to end his life. Even today I cannot understand the need for sensless crimes such as these. However, to be able to keep moving forward I have my strong faith and know that the one who took them from us are the one who will stand and be judged and my belief is that there will be no eternity in Heaven for them.

I today am still having a really hard time with this and I do hope to see you soon. Please know that all of Joe's wonderful friends and acquaintenances are keeping you and yours in our thoughts and prayers. We know we will be together with Joe again and I certainly hope that by then I will have learned how to dance. Love

Patti Childers
amanda carter
December 21, 2011
Mr. joe stahl was a good man. I have a six year old little girl,LILLIAN STAHL! wHEN I TOLD HER what had happen to her papa joe. She was upset that her papa would never be able to dance,with her again. joe loved dancing. He was such a wonderful person. It is not right for this man to take him away from all of us. He was just trying to help someone and put a roof over someone head in need. We are going to miss him. THE STAHL FAMILY NEEDS HELP WITH FUNREAL EXPENSE. lisa stahl his daughter will be the one to contact if anyone would like to help! thank u ,amanda carter
Laura S.
December 22, 2011
Dear Amanda,

We are so sorry to hear about Joe. No, he did not deserve to die like this; no one does. He was a very good and kind man.

Is Lisa setting up a place where donations can be sent? Have any arrangements been made yet?

Again, our sincerest condolences on your loss of a very special.
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