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Attempted capital murder charges against Luray men for shooting pregnant woman head to grand jury

Page News and Courier

LURAY, Aug. 11 ― Charges against two Luray men accused of the attempted capital murder of a pregnant woman will head to a Page County grand jury on Monday.

Eight felony charges against both Matthew David Furlow, 26, and Raymond Lee Shifflett, 21, were certified last Thursday during a joint preliminary hearing in general district court, including: conspiracy to commit capital murder; aggravated malicious wounding; attempting to conceal a body; abduction by force/intimidation; grand larceny; and two counts of use of a firearm in commission of a felony, in addition to attempted capital murder.

Around 2:17 a.m. on Monday, April 4, the Page County Sheriff's Office was called to 250 Peach Orchard Road near Luray after a resident called to report that an individual was trying to enter their home. Deputies arrived to find Ellen Piepenbrink, 20, outside of the residence suffering from two gunshot wounds to the head.

In court on Thursday, Sgt. Clay Nevitt of the sheriff's office testified that he arrived to find Piepenbrink on a deck, wrapped in a blanket with “severe trauma to her face” and “screaming from the pain.” She remained conscious throughout the conversation, Nevitt added, and told deputies she had remained conscious throughout the incident, “playing dead” after suffering a second gunshot wound.

Piepenbrink said she'd been shot because Furlow “didn't want the baby,” said Nevitt, and that Furlow and Shifflett were next door at Furlow's house at 384 Peach Orchard Road.

Deputies set up a perimeter around the house and made contact with the two men through a PA system. Furlow and Shifflett then exited one at a time and were detained in separate vehicles.

Reading from a transcribed interview, Capt. Aaron Cubbage of the sheriff's office said that Shifflett said, “Why do things like this keep happening to me?”

“He then said he was going to jail for a long time,” said Cubbage.

When Cubbage asked why he thought he was going to jail, Shifflett said, “You know everything, so, why not? I mean, I'm guilty.”

According to the transcribed interview, Shifflett told investigators that Furlow shot Piepenbrink twice in the head because he didn't want to “go to court for child support.” Shifflett, who lives on the same road as Furlow at 145 Peach Orchard Road, said he arrived at Furlow's around 6 p.m. on Sunday, April 3, and that the two began drinking alcohol.

Shifflett continued, telling Cubbage that Furlow asked him to help kill Piepenbrink and that he agreed.

“[Shifflett] said that the Saturday before he had thought he overheard [Furlow and Piepenbrink] having sex, and he thought she was a 'slut,' he wanted her to die,” said Cubbage.

According to Cubbage's testimony, Shifflett said that he and Furlow invited Piepenbrink over, and began “planning how to kill her” about 30 minutes before she arrived. They asked Piepenbrink to walk with them to the roadway, telling her they were going for a walk and to meet someone to “go for a ride.” On Peach Orchard Road, Shifflett told investigators, Furlow shot Piepenbrink twice with a pistol. They then dragged her body up a hill to a wooded area, with Furlow at her arms and Shifflett at her legs, Shifflett told investigators. At one point, said Cubbage, Shifflett said he told Furlow that he thought he felt Piepenbrink move, but Furlow insisted she was dead.

Believing her dead, they decided to “leave her in the woods till later,” said Cubbage, and return before daybreak to bury her body.

Furlow gave a different account of the evening, said Cubbage.

After being detained, said Cubbage, Furlow told investigators “he didn't know what was going on.” He said Piepenbrink left his house after an argument with “some dude in a black Honda Civic,” adding that he and Piepenbrink had “seen one another” for about three months, but that he didn't know her last name.

Furlow later told investigators that Shifflett shot Piepenbrink and that “he didn't want him to do it.” He said Shifflett was “upset because [Piepenbrink] wouldn't date him,” said Cubbage.

Furlow then maintained that at the roadway he “thinks” Shifflett shot Piepenbrink “once or twice,” at which point Furlow began running to his house.

Investigator Timmy Lansberry testified that he arrived to find a “large pool of blood” and two shell casings from a 380-caliber pistol at the intersection of the driveway and Peach Orchard Road. Items from Piepenbrink's purse were found in a ditch near the road and a bracelet belonging to Piepenbrink was found in the wooded area investigators believe she was dragged to, said Lansberry.

Investigators also found a firearm with its serial number scratched off inside a rubber boot in Furlow's garage. A knife and four unspent hollow-point rounds consistent with the casings found on the roadway were also retrieved, Lansberry said, adding that Shifflett's statements led investigators to the locations of both the firearm and the contents of Piepenbrink's purse.

According to Investigator Micah Grandstaff's testimony, Piepenbrink suffered fractures to her jawbone and lost her left eye.

“In fact, she asked you to find her eye?” Page County Commonwealth's Attorney Ken Alger asked Cubbage.

“She did,” said Cubbage.

A second bullet remains in her neck, he added.

Alger asked Cubbage which of the two men's statements were more consistent with Piepenbrink's account.

Cubbage glanced at the defendants ― Furlow, who spent most of Thursday's hour-long hearing hunched over a table, slowly writing on a piece of legal pad paper in handcuffs and rarely looking up, and Shifflett, who looked on with no discernible expression as investigators testified.

Cubbage said that throughout the investigation, Shifflett's statements were consistent with Piepenbrink's.

Alger said in court on Thursday that Piepenbrink is about six months pregnant.

A Page County grand jury will decide on Monday if indictments will be brought against Furlow and Shifflett.

Shifflett is additionally charged with violating the terms of his probation.

On Sept. 10, 2014, Shifflett pleaded guilty in Page County Circuit Court to a 2013 string of felony thefts in Page, Shenandoah and Rockingham counties.

Shifflett was one of three men who pleaded guilty to stealing a 2004 Nissan Titan and sending it over the Massanutten Mountain, as well as the theft and destruction of a 2000 Pontiac Grand Am.

Shifflett was also one of two men charged in Shenandoah County for breaking and entering and grand larceny on Oct. 20, 2013 from Page Valley Tobacco in New Market.



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