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A young husband and wife are under arrest in connection with the killing of their neighbor, a Las Vegas landlord. The man was apparently hacked to death with an electric saw, and his body stuffed inside a garment box, investigators say.
Anthony Stiger and Melanie Costantini, both 20, remained silent at a court hearing Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. A judge entered not guilty pleas on their behalf.
Stiger admitted to the saw attack in a jailhouse interview with KTNV-TV, but claimed it was in self-defense. He also claimed his grandparents stuffed the landlord's body in the box -- a claim his grandmother dismissed as a laughable lie.
Clips of Stiger's interview, and his grandmother's denial, are included in this AP report:
Stiger and Costantini lived at a Las Vegas apartment complex where Stiger also worked as a maintenance man.
Stiger told KTNV he got in a heated argument with his boss and landlord Harold Shilberg, 58, about making repairs. Shilberg tried to attack him with an electric saw, Stiger said.
Stiger claimed he wrested the weapon from Shilberg's hands and, during a struggle, sliced Shilberg's neck with the saw. Shilberg bled to death in a bathtub, Stiger said.
Police found Shilberg's body stuffed in an oversized U-Haul garment box Nov. 9. They found the bloody saw, and blood-soaked clothes, nearby. Stiger and Costantini were arrested five days later in California.
The couple faces felony charges of murder and conspiracy. Prosecutors are considering whether to pursue the death penalty.
As for Stiger's self-defense claim, he has a lot to prove in order to get off the hook for murder. For example, Stiger will have to show that he did not start the fight that led to the killing, that he feared imminent bodily harm, and that his use of force was proportional to Shilberg's alleged threat of force.
In some states, a person claiming self-defense must also first try to retreat, if possible, before using deadly force. But that is not a requirement in Nevada.
If Stiger's jailhouse story holds up, he may indeed have a defense. It's likely prosecutors are already looking to counter his claims.
The alleged saw killing couple are set to appear in court again Dec. 19.
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