By JOSH NEWTON
District 27 prosecutors wasted no time Monday as they quickly charged a 33-year-old Broken Arrow man with first-degree murder in the death of a Northeastern State University professor.
Joshua John Schneider, identified in court documents by the alias Joshua John Griffith, was arrested Saturday afternoon following a days-long manhunt. He is also facing two counts of first-degree arson and three counts of larceny in Cherokee County District Court.
Prosecutors allege Schneider killed Dr. Tiffany R. Maher sometime between May 27 and May 31, and stole a number of items from her home before he tried to set fire to Maher’s house and body.
Maher was found at her Tahlequah home when she failed to appear at a conference where she was scheduled to speak. State medical officials have not determined the exact cause of Maher’s death, but have said they do not believe she died as a result of the fire set at her house.
Though Schneider had recently been described only as a “person of interest” in Maher’s death, things quickly changed two days after he was arrested in south Tulsa.
“We’re going to continue on with our investigation, but we believe at this time that there is sufficient evidence to charge him,” said District 27 First Assistant District Attorney Jack Thorp.
Investigators have attempted to interview Schneider, but he has instead sought an attorney. Sources on Monday said Schneider’s girlfriend, Heather Black, had also been cooperative Saturday when she was arrested, but has now also sought an attorney.
An affidavit filed by Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Vicky Lyons says family members of Maher reported several items missing from Maher’s residence after her death, including a Kindle Fire, an HP mini netbook, a Samsung TV, and numerous other items.
Tulsa police checked pawn-shop records July 15 and learned that Maher’s Kindle Fire was pawned by Schneider at a business on June 28. During that transaction, Schneider provided a Broken Arrow address.
The following day, agents learned that a person using the name “Big Daddy” had registered the Kindle Fire with Amazon Inc. on May 28, just three minutes after the device had been unregistered from Maher’s name. “Big Daddy” provided an email address, phone number, and a physical address, which was the same as the address Schneider was using, according to Lyons.
Agents had previously learned that Maher’s phone exchanged a call and text message with a phone belonging to “Big Daddy” on May 26 and May 27. That phone number matched the number provided on pawn shop documents by Schneider, agents said.
Authorities also allege Schneider pawned Maher’s HP netbook in Coweta on June 15, and returned July 17 to recover that item.
Authorities obtained arrest warrants for Schneider on July 18 for false declaration of ownership in a pawn, and for failing to register as a sex offender. That same day, agents received information that Schneider left his truck in a parking lot at Hillcrest Hospital South, then got into a car and left.
Agents followed the car and later attempted to stop Schneider, but Schneider fled. Authorities later ended the chase, but found the car and Schneider’s 2-year-old child abandoned in a wooded area.
On July 19, OSBI agents searched Schneider’s truck and discovered a checkbook belonging to Maher. That same day, agents received information that Schneider’s identification card had been found with other items near a road in Tulsa. Agents retrieved the items, which included Maher’s credit card and driver’s license. A subsequent search uncovered Maher’s NSU identification.
According to Lyons, the pursuit involving Schneider had ended in that area.
On July 22, agents served a search warrant at Black’s’s storage building and discovered two orange boxes with music CDs and karaoke discs that had been stolen from Maher’s home. Maher’s name was written on the cover of the CDs. A suitcase in the storage building included various papers with Schneider’s name, according to Lyons’ affidavit.
Saturday, after several days of an intense hunt for Schneider and Black, investigators took Black into custody when she turned herself in near 91st and Highway 169 in south Tulsa. Minutes later, police found and arrested Schneider in the same area. Black later took authorities to a so-called “hideout” in the Catoosa area, where Schneider allegedly tried to destroy some evidence.
OSBI Special Agent Dale Fine interviewed Black after her arrest, according to Lyons’ affidavit. Black allegedly told agents she met Schneider in March 2013 and they began living together in Broken Arrow.
After the pursuit in Tulsa, Schneider allegedly confessed to Black that police might want to question him in Maher’s death.
Schneider allegedly said he went to see Maher during the time he was living with Black, and Black told authorities Schneider did not spend Memorial Day weekend with her.
Authorities have previously said Schneider used various names to meet women on online dating sites. According to Lyons’ affidavit, agents searched Maher’s NSU computer and learned she used at least two dating sites to meet men.
According to court records, Schneider has previously been convicted of second-degree rape and several other crimes.