PHILADELPHIA — A man defending himself against murder charges took the stand Monday, claiming his lover accidentally died during sex.
Anthony Heath, 26, of Allentown, Pa., is accused of killing Angela Steigerwalt, 35, of Schuylkill County back in January of 2014.
Prosecutors say he then burned and dumped her body in Jim Thorpe, Carbon County. Heath was later found in North Carolina, driving Steigerwalt’s vehicle.
He’s previously admitted to killing Steigerwalt but now says it happened accidentally while the two were intimate.
Heath says the relationship is “tough to talk about” and this has been a “very difficult journey.”
Heath started his testimony “from the beginning.” He said he met Steigerwalt through his roommate.
The two began texting and became friends on social media. He admitted to being a “lady’s man” and eventually asked Steigerwalt what she would use as her “safe word.”
He said the question sparked her interest and took their relationship to a new level.
Heath testified to the pair flirting, meeting in public at diners, and eventually the start of a sexual relationship.
But he said they were never “in a relationship” although he loved her “as a person.”
The weekend Steigerwalt died, Heath says Steigerwalt visited his Allentown apartment after finishing her shift at Kraft Foods in Upper Macungie Township.
He said she died during sex and claims he didn’t hear her say her “safe word” — “stop.”
Heath says after Steigerwalt’s death, he panicked, drove her car to a local Walmart, and purchased several items including lighter fluid.
The items and the receipt were found near Steigerwalt’s body, investigators said.
Upon cross examination, Assistant District Attorney Steve Luksa questioned why Heath didn’t report Steigerwalt’s death.
Heath says he “knows it’s stupid” but he wanted to save her reputation. Heath claims the relationship was kept secret because Steigerwalt was married.
He says he went to North Carolina after her death to visit his brother who is a Marine. He was 45 minutes from the base when he was stopped by police.
Heath tried to illustrate his state of panic telling jurors about his slip ups.
“This is not something a cool, collected person does.” Heath testified, “If I planned something I would be as cool as a bag floating through the air.”
Luksa disagrees. He pointed out Heath sent text messages from Steigerwalt’s after her death. And the fact that he made worked to cover up the crime and evade police.
Prosecutor’s also say Heath’s crime wasn’t an accident. Instead, he strangled Steigerwalt then burned her body because she refused to help him with his ongoing child custody fight.