Man pleads guilty in 2011 beating death
by Lindsay Field
September 14, 2013 12:52 AM | 2139 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — A homeless man has pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced Friday to life in prison for the 2011 murder of 71-year-old Joseph Stahl of Austell.

Thomas Duane Sparks, 50, admitted to the beating death of Stahl in his home in the 6400 block of Pisgah Road in south Cobb on Dec. 18, 2011.

Sparks, who reportedly rented a room from Stahl prior to the murder, was sentenced by Cobb Superior Court Judge Stephen Schuster to life in prison. He will be eligible for parole after serving 30 years. Charges of felony murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and armed robbery were dismissed as part of the plea deal.

Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Jesse Evans told the court that, by all accounts, Stahl was a friendly, personable, active man who suffered an extremely brutal death.

He was repeatedly hit with a large piece of wood.

Police said the crime scene was particularly bloody, and Stahl’s blood was found on Sparks’ clothing when he was arrested Dec. 19, 2011. Police previously said Stahl died from “obvious … blunt force trauma” injuries.

Stahl’s daughter, Lisa McCloud, spoke on behalf of the family and friends, several of whom were in court for the plea and sentencing, during Friday’s hearing.

She tearfully told the court, “This heinous act has completely devastated my family,” and called it a “true nightmare.”

Sparks told the court he was “real sorry.” He has been held without bond in the Cobb County jail since his arrest.

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