Monday, December 31, 2012

Sumerlin, NV: Grand jury indicts firefighter in estranged wife's death

Las Vegas firefighter George Tiaffay and the homeless man authorities say he hired to kill his estranged wife were charged in a murder indictment returned Friday.

Tiaffay, 40, and Noel "Greyhound" Stevens, 37, were charged with several counts, including murder with use of a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to commit burglary and robbery with use of a deadly weapon.

The two defendants were arrested in October in the Sept. 29 slaying of Shauna Tiaffay, 46, a Palms cocktail waitress whose body was found in her Summerlin home.

At the request of prosecutors, District Judge Linda Bell, who accepted the eight-count indictment from a county grand jury, ordered both men to remain behind bars without bail. They face a Jan. 3 arraignment before District Judge Jerry Tao.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Marc DiGiacomo said in court that Stevens freely admitted his role in the slaying.

According to the indictment, Stevens was one of 14 witnesses who testified before the grand jury. He acknowledged being hired by Tiaffay and hitting the victim in the head 17 times with a hammer, DiGiacomo said.

Stevens also admitted making several "dry runs" during the murder scheme, the prosecutor said.
Tiaffay's attorney, Robert Langford, said afterward that the case is the result of the statements of a "crazy homeless guy."

"They're ignoring common sense to make this a sensational case," Langford said.

In a motion seeking bail for Tiaffay, the defense lawyer further attacked Stevens.

"The only evidence the state has is the fantastical claims of a deranged man, Noel Stevens, who also claims that he turned down a recent opportunity to commit a jewel heist of an Italian mobster at the Palms," Langford wrote. "Stevens is an addled drug addict whose far-fetched stories should not be believed, let alone support murder charges."

Langford added: "These stories are the product of an altered mind. Stevens consumes large quantities of alcohol, takes methamphetamine and smokes weed."

Until he was caught up in the murder case, Tiaffay was regarded as a "local hero" and a "stand-up dad" in the community with no criminal record, Langford wrote.

Tiaffay and his wife also had withdrawn divorce papers and were in the process of reconciling, the attorney said.

Authorities allege Tiaffay, a Las Vegas firefighter since 2002 and a 1994 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, paid Stevens $600 to beat his wife to death with a hammer.

Tiaffay was with the couple's 8-year-old daughter when they found the body at the Willowbrook Apartments, 2601 S. Pavilion Center Drive, near the intersection of Sahara Avenue and the Las Vegas Beltway.

Shauna Tiaffay had been dead for hours by the time her husband and daughter made the grisly discovery.

Her body was cold and stiff, according to police. The hole from the hammer to the side of her head was so deep that paramedics first thought she might have been shot.

The 46-year-old mother had broken several fingers trying to defend herself from being bludgeoned to death in the early morning hours of Sept. 29, but the woman was caught off-guard after returning home from a graveyard shift at the Palms.

Before his arrest, Tiaffay spent time recovering in the hospital from injuries he suffered after he drove his truck into a wall near Summerlin Parkway and the Beltway.

Detectives said Tiaffay was trying to commit suicide after learning that he was a prime suspect in the slaying.

Stevens, who lived at vagrant campsites around town, told detectives that Tiaffay was a longtime friend whom he occasionally worked for as a handyman.

Detectives found several items of clothing from Shauna Tiaffay's home, including her underwear, in one of Stevens' tents near Charleston Boulevard on the west end of the valley.

Detectives also recovered a bloodstained T-shirt and pair of jeans during a search of a second tent near Town Center Drive and Tropicana Avenue. The blood tested positive for both Stevens and the victim, according to police.

Tiaffay and Stevens were linked to the crime using cellphone records that indicated the duo met a few hours after the killing, authorities have said. They were recorded on a store surveillance camera together buying a hammer, knife and gloves a few weeks before Shauna Tiaffay's death.

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