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As an Air Force veteran and military contractor, Joe Stutzman was dedicated to making a difference in people’s lives, especially those of his wife, Brandy, and their young son, Aaron.
While Joe believed his work overseas would provide his family with safety and stability, the distance soon drove the couple apart, and it led to Brandy opening their home — and bank account — to a gang of rowdy teenage boys.
When it looked like Joe was planning to divorce Brandy and leave her with nothing, she recruited one of her young admirers to kill him.
Born in 1977, Joe grew up in Altoona, a small town in central Pennsylvania whose best days were about 100 years behind it.
“Altoona is a somewhat depressed area as far as jobs go. At some point, he decided to join the military,” Joe’s mother, Carol Sellers, told “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
After joining the United States Air Force, Joe spent long stretches of time abroad, later becoming a crew chief for Stealth Bombers. He was then transferred to Nellis Air Force Base outside of Las Vegas in 2002, and “Sin City” provided no shortage of fun for the good-looking 24-year-old.
One night, while out nightclubbing, he met a pretty local girl named Brandy Norfleet, and the two hit it off immediately. Brandy, a Vegas native, had been raised by a single mother who worked odd hours and struggled to make ends meet.
Although she had endured her fair share of hardship, Brandy’s upbringing helped shape her into a caring, thoughtful woman, said friends.
“She loved to always help. Anything you needed,” neighbor Nicole Prichard told “Snapped.” “There wasn’t anything that she wouldn’t do to help.”
Joe was attracted to her selfless nature, and whenever they were together, he “always had a smile on his face,” said friend Todd Gargac.
The two married in June 2003 and moved to North Las Vegas, a residential neighborhood not far from Nellis Air Force Base. They soon started a family of their own, and Brandy gave birth to a baby boy named Aaron.
With a wife and newborn to support, Joe left the Air Force and became an independent military contractor, nearly tripling his salary. His new line of work took him into war zones, such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
Though it meant more time away from home, Joe thought he was doing the right thing.
“He wanted everything for Aaron. That’s why he did those deployments,” Gargac told “Snapped.” “That’s why he worked so hard. It’s family. A lot of us do this for family, to have a better life for them.”
But, Joe’s extended stays on the other side of the world took a toll on his marriage.
Brandy was lonely and struggled with depression, and she began hanging out with a surrogate family of rowdy teenage boys who kept her company while Joe was away.
Many of the boys whom Brandy associated with were self-described “Juggalos.” Juggalos, and their female counterparts Juggalettes, are followers of the hip hop group Insane Clown Posse, which is known for its evil clown makeup and songs that some think celebrate violence.
Despite protests from the band and its fans, the FBI classified Juggalos as a gang in its 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment, according to Rolling Stone magazine.
“Many of the Juggalos are considered street gang members,” Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Detective Dan Long told “Snapped.”
While Joe was overseas on assignment, the Stutzman home become a scene for wild teenage parties filled with drugs and alcohol.
“There were kids in and out constantly, at all hours of the night,” said Prichard. “It was intimidating. It was a flop house.”
When Joe returned from a deployment to Afghanistan in the fall of 2010, the boys stopped coming by, and the parties ceased. Three weeks later, however, the neighborhood was again filled with commotion.
On the afternoon of Nov. 7, Brandy made a frantic 911 call. She told the dispatcher that she had discovered her husband with blood on his “arms and chest” and that his body was “cold,” according to KSNV.
Authorities arrived to discover a gruesome crime scene — Joe was faceup on the floor of his kitchen, just inside sliding glass doors that opened into the backyard.
“There was quite an extensive area, maybe five or six feet in diameter where there was blood all around,” Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Detective Dean O’Kelley told “Snapped.”
Medical personnel pronounced the 32-year-old dead at the scene, according to the Las Vegas Sun newspaper.
Joe’s body had sustained multiple cuts and stab wounds, and he “had very deep lacerations to his upper arm and shoulders where he had been cut apparently, it looked like, to the bone,” said Det. O’Kelley.
He was also missing his left ring finger, which had been cut off cleanly with a knife and taken from the scene.
When Brandy initially spoke to detectives, she told them that following an argument with Joe, she and her son slept at the house of one of her teenage friends. The next day, Brandy said she went back to her house to try to patch things up, and that is when she discovered Joe’s body.
Brandy also told detectives she was the victim of domestic violence and emotional abuse, but her arrest record told a different story. In July of that year, she had been arrested on domestic abuse charges, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. And that wasn’t the only incident.
“Brandy had been arrested a couple of times for domestic violence involving Joe,” Det. O’Kelley told “Snapped.” “Most recently, two days prior to the murder, where she rammed his car. She went to jail for that.”
When asked if any of her young Juggalo friends could have hurt her husband, Brandy reluctantly implicated 19-year-old Jeremiah Merriweather. The two had a “brother-sister” relationship, and Brandy said she vented to Merriweather about Joe and their marital problems on the night of the murder.
While she denied any involvement in the slaying, Brandy eventually broke down and stated that at around 4 a.m. that morning, Merriweather had shown up at their friend’s house covered in blood.
“He admits to her that he had gone over and he had a confrontation with Joe and that he had stabbed him and that he was dead,” Det. O'Kelley told “Snapped.”
Although Merriweather initially claimed he was home at the time of Joe’s murder, he ultimately admitted to police that he went to the Stutzmans’ home around 2 a.m. Armed with a knife, he said he wanted to confront Joe about the way he was treating Brandy.
Merriweather alleged Joe answered the door with his own knife, and the two got into a scuffle that ended in Joe’s death. “Jeremiah said it wasn’t a murder, it was self-defense,” Det. O’Kelley said.
Once investigators found the bag that Merriweather had used the night of the murder, however, they believed he had arrived at the Stutzman home with the intent to kill Joe. Inside the bag, there were gloves, the murder weapon — a knife with brass knuckles — and a black goalie mask.
“It was a hockey mask. And so, it covered his face completely … Somebody comes into the house wearing a mask, he’s there to do no good. He’s not there to scare,” Prosecutor Frank Coumou told “Snapped.”
Convinced Merriweather did not hatch the murder plot by himself, detectives dug deeper into the Stutzmans’ relationship.
They learned that prior to the murder, Joe had discovered that Brandy and her Juggalos had blown through thousands of dollars from his bank account. Fed up with funding Brandy’s teenage friends, he met with an attorney and drew up divorce papers.
When Joe told Brandy, she “became unglued,” said Coumou.
“She became violent. She became absolutely toxic towards Joe, to the point where Joe's safety was a concern to many of his friends,” he told “Snapped.”
Detectives also found out that in the event of Joe’s death, Brandy stood to collect on a hefty life insurance policy, according to the Associated Press.
“He had a life insurance policy; it was worth approximately $213,000 to Brandy if Joe’s dead. So, she gets all the property, she gets $213,000 in cash, and she gets the child,” said Det. Long.
Prosecutors charged both Brandy and Merriweather with felony murder, and mid-trial, Merriweather agreed to testify again Brandy in exchange for a plea deal.
Merriweather told the jury that on the night of the murder, Brandy dosed Joe with sleeping pills, making him easy prey for the teen.
Later that evening, she braided Merriweather’s hair and told him how much it would mean to her if he killed Joe.
“You gotta do this. You can save our family,” Brandy told Merriweather before sending him off, according to the Associated Press.
Merriweather then drove to the Stutzman house wearing gloves, a hoodie, and a hockey mask, and he attacked Joe in the backyard, stabbing him 15 times and cutting off his ring finger.
Merriweather pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 21 years to life in prison, according to Las Vegas CBS affiliate KLAS. He is currently serving his sentence at Nevada’s Lovelock Correctional Center.
Brandy was found guilty of first-degree murder, and she was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. She is currently incarcerated at the Florence McClure Women's Correctional Center.
Brandy and Joe’s son, Aaron, is currently being raised by Brandy’s father.
To hear more about the case, watch “Snapped” on Oxygen.
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