- DOC Number: 1190381.
- Inmate Number: 360579.
- Venue: Rockingham County.
- Victim: Stephanie Yvonne Sipe.
- Crime: Capital murder (murder for hire).
- Current Location: Sussex I State Prison.
- Status: Petition for writ of habeas corpus dismissed by the Supreme Court of Virginia.
- As of: January 15, 2010.
Summary of crime:
From Teleguz v. Commonwealth [emphasis mine throughout]:
During the summer of 2001, [Ivan] Teleguz hired Edwin Lee Gilkes, Jr., and Michael Anthony Hetrick to kill Sipe, who was Teleguz’s ex-girlfriend and the mother of his young child. On July 21, 2001, Teleguz, driving his car, took Gilkes and Hetrick from their apartment in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to Harrisonburg, Virginia, where Sipe lived. Teleguz told Hetrick he wanted Sipe’s “throat cut” and “to make sure she was dead.” Once in Virginia, Teleguz waited in the car while Gilkes and Hetrick went into a Wal-Mart. Hetrick purchased a fillet knife, which Teleguz approved as a suitable murder weapon. Teleguz took the men to Sipe’s apartment complex and pointed out her apartment. They then drove the car to a parking lot near Sipe’s residence, where Gilkes and Hetrick got out of the car. Teleguz told the men to “wait until he had time to get back to Pennsylvania.”
After waiting several hours, Gilkes and Hetrick walked back to Sipe’s apartment complex. Hetrick approached Sipe’s apartment alone and gained entry by asking to use the telephone. Once in the apartment, Hetrick killed Sipe by cutting her throat. In the course of the attack, Hetrick injured his hand. Hetrick went to the bathroom to clean his hand and was surprised to find Sipe’s infant son “in the bathtub with the water running.” Hetrick turned off the water and left the apartment. Gilkes and Hetrick returned to Pennsylvania by bus.
On the evening of July 23, 2001, Sipe’s mother, Pamela Y. Woods, went to her daughter’s apartment because she had not heard from Sipe during the previous two days and was unable to reach her by telephone. When Woods entered the apartment, she found Sipe’s body in the front room and began screaming for help. Woods then found Sipe’s twenty-three month-old son in the bathroom of the apartment, with the bathtub full of water. The child was unharmed. In response to Woods’ screams, Mark Edwin Moore, a neighbor, went to Sipe’s apartment and, after placing a blanket over Sipe’s body, took Woods and her grandson out of the apartment.
The medical examiner testified that Sipe suffered a number of cuts described as defensive wounds, as well as three other wounds. The first, according to the medical examiner, was a superficial wound. The second wound was a “stabbing wound,” which affected the area “all the way from the left side of the neck . . . to the right side of the neck” and consisted of a cut to Sipe’s windpipe and esophagus. The medical examiner also testified that the third wound, the fatal wound, was a “cutting wound” which consisted of a cut approximately two and one-half inches deep into Sipe’s trachea, larynx, and a major artery on the right side of Sipe’s neck, which was completely severed.
At the crime scene, the Harrisonburg police discovered blood that did not belong to Sipe. Investigator Kevin A. Whitfield learned from Sipe’s family members that Teleguz was the father of Sipe’s son and that he was currently living in Pennsylvania. Investigator Whitfield also learned that relations between Sipe and Teleguz had been strained, and that Teleguz was upset about a court order requiring him to pay child support. On July 24, 2001, Investigator Whitfield interviewed Teleguz at Teleguz’s residence in Pennsylvania. Teleguz denied any involvement in the murder, and stated he had been in Pennsylvania since July 20, 2001.
On December 14, 2001, Investigator Whitfield, assisted by Pennsylvania State Police, executed a search warrant on Teleguz. Police collected samples of Teleguz’s blood, hair, and saliva. Testing revealed that Teleguz was not the source of the blood found at Sipe’s apartment.
Also in 2001, Investigator Whitfield interviewed Mark Moore who told Whitfield that he had seen an unknown person around Sipe’s apartment prior to her murder. When shown a photograph array that included a photograph of Teleguz, Moore told Investigator Whitfield he was about 70 percent certain Teleguz was the person he had seen at Sipe’s apartment. Investigator Whitfield also interviewed Ryan Ferguson, who was with Moore the night he saw the individual leave Sipe’s apartment. Ferguson was also shown a photograph array. Although Ferguson initially failed to identify Teleguz, he subsequently identified the photograph of Teleguz as the one which “most” resembled the person he had seen leaving Sipe’s apartment. No arrests were made on the basis of these interviews.
The investigation stalled until February 2003, when Michael Nelson, a deputy marshal with the United States Marshal Service, contacted Investigator Whitfield with information about the Sipe murder. Aleksey Safanov, who was facing federal criminal charges, told Deputy Marshal Nelson that Teleguz had hired a black male from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to kill Sipe because Teleguz was angry about having to pay child support. According to Safanov, Teleguz said that Sipe had been murdered, and that Teleguz was upset because “[w]hoever killed her left blood evidence.” Safanov also told investigators that after Sipe’s murder, Teleguz wanted to rob Sipe’s parents, and that he and Teleguz had driven to Harrisonburg but ultimately did not commit the robbery.
Safanov’s information led the police to Edwin Gilkes who told the police that he refused Teleguz’s offer to murder Sipe for pay but that Michael Hetrick accepted the offer. The police then contacted Hetrick who ultimately confessed to murdering Sipe. Hetrick said Teleguz had hired him to kill Sipe for $ 2,000, with half to be paid before the murder. When Teleguz received confirmation of Sipe’s death, he paid Gilkes and Hetrick the remaining $ 1,000 plus an additional $ 500 for expenses. Subsequent testing revealed that Hetrick was the source of the unidentified blood found at Sipe’s apartment.
As a result of Hetrick’s confession, Teleguz was arrested in Pennsylvania on July 1, 2004 and subsequently extradited to Virginia. He was indicted by a Rockingham County grand jury for the willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of a person by another for hire as an accessory before the fact in violation of Code § 18.2-31(2).
Following a four day trial, the jury found Teleguz guilty as charged. The jury proceeded to hear further evidence regarding sentencing. The Commonwealth presented evidence at sentencing in support of the statutory aggravators of vileness and future dangerousness. In addition to the evidence presented during the guilt portion of the trial, the Commonwealth’s evidence included Teleguz’s prior criminal convictions, testimony from Sipe’s relatives, the nature of the injuries Sipe sustained, and the pain she would have experienced prior to her death.
- “Offender Locator.” Virginia Department of Corrections 11 Oct. 2010. <http://www.vadoc.state.va.us/offenders/locator/index.cfm>. [↩] [↩] [↩]
- Teleguz v. Commonwealth, 273 Va. 458, 643 S.E.2d 708 (2007), cert. denied, Teleguz v. Virginia, 552 U.S. 1191, 128 S. Ct. 1228, 170 L. Ed. 2d 78 (2008), reh’g denied, 552 U.S. 1332, 128 S. Ct. 1927, 170 L. Ed. 2d 785 (2008). [↩]
- Teleguz v. Commonwealth, 273 Va. 458, 466, 643 S.E.2d 708, 714 (2007), cert. denied, Teleguz v. Virginia, 552 U.S. 1191, 128 S. Ct. 1228, 170 L. Ed. 2d 78 (2008), reh’g denied, 552 U.S. 1332, 128 S. Ct. 1927, 170 L. Ed. 2d 785 (2008). [↩] [↩]
- Teleguz v. Warden of Sussex I State Prison, 279 Va. 1, 688 S.E.2d 865 (2010). [↩] [↩]
- Teleguz v. Commonwealth, 273 Va. 458, 467-469, 643 S.E.2d 708, 714-716 (2007), cert. denied, Teleguz v. Virginia, 552 U.S. 1191, 128 S. Ct. 1228, 170 L. Ed. 2d 78 (2008), reh’g denied, 552 U.S. 1332, 128 S. Ct. 1927, 170 L. Ed. 2d 785 (2008). [↩]