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.