Fla. Man Fatally Stabbed On Trip to Deliver a Boat

By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 14, 2008

Shelton D. Stephens was just stopping to grab a bite to eat -- a brief respite on his trip from Florida to New York. After picking up a boat in Welcome, Md., on Wednesday night, he pulled his truck into the parking lot of a Hooters in Waldorf and went inside.

Stephens, 52, sat down near a Waldorf man named Joseph J. Plass. It is not clear what, if anything, the two men said to each other. What is clear, police said, is that after they left about 7:30 p.m., Plass, 57, pulled a knife and stabbed Stephens in the upper body. Then, as Stephens stumbled across the parking lot to a Super 8 Motel on Crain Highway, Plass returned to the restaurant, where he was later arrested. Police said he was carrying a bloody knife in his pocket.

Stephens collapsed in the motel lobby and died. Plass has been charged with first-degree murder and ordered held in the Charles County Detention Center.

"It's just a terribly tragic incident," said Diane Richardson, a spokeswoman for the Charles County Sheriff's Office. "It's really unclear why the suspect did it."

Witnesses inside the restaurant said the two men did not appear to have an argument, nor did they seem to know each other, Richardson said.

The killing was Charles's second in as many days and the ninth of the year. On Tuesday, police found the body of 28-year-old Daniel Cordova, who was naked and had been fatally stabbed, behind a Waldorf home improvement store.

Ruthann Carroll, Stephens's fiance, said yesterday in a telephone interview that Stephens had left their Dunnellon, Fla., house Tuesday night to pick up a boat in Welcome and take it to Long Island, N.Y. Stephens's job was to transport boats, Carroll said, and people would frequently approach him wanting money, mistakenly thinking he owned the boats he was moving.

Richardson said police found no evidence to suggest that Plass had robbed Stephens.

Carroll, 51, described her fiance as a friendly man who "always had a laugh." She said he helped her raise a 10-year-old adopted granddaughter, and he had two daughters and a son.

"He could go in any place and start a conversation," she said. "He just liked life itself."

Efforts to locate an attorney for Plass were unsuccessful.

The homicide charges are not Plass's first encounter with the law. In Prince George's County in 1996, he pleaded guilty to assault with intent to disable, reckless endangerment and transporting a handgun, court records show. He entered an Alford plea, meaning he did not admit guilt but acknowledged the strength of the evidence against him.

Plass was sentenced to six months of home detention, which was changed to six months in prison after he violated the terms of his agreement, records show.

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