A Virginia man has been charged with manslaughter for allegedly killing his rock-climbing mentor with a claw hammer, The Washington Post reports.
The rock-climbing community initially thought 69-year-old Geoffrey Farrar died in a tragic fall at the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, but police now say his death was not an accident.
David DiPaolo, 31, admitted to killing Farrar but claims he did so in self-defence, according to an affidavit filed in Maryland federal court.
Farrar had reportedly mentored DiPaolo for 20 years, according to the Post. They met when DiPaolo was 11 years old and formed a strong bond, making Farrar’s death even more shocking.
DiPaolo’s father told the Post that his son suffered from bipolar disorder. He also said his son and Farrar enjoyed competing against one each other on dangerous climbs as part of a “game they played.”
The affidavit lays out investigators’ version of what happened Dec. 28.
One unnamed witness told police that he or she saw DiPaolo arguing with Farrar in a parking lot about an hour before Farrar’s body was discovered at the base of a cliff. After the argument ended, the witness saw DiPaolo go back to the van he’d been seen driving, according to the affidavit.
The witness then walked Farrar to the top of a rock face and left him. The witness and a companion said they peered over the rock face and didn’t see anyone at the bottom of the cliff near where Farrar was eventually found.
A few minutes later, the two witnesses say they saw DiPaolo running up the trail. He reportedly ignored their calls as he passed them. Seconds after that, the two witnesses discovered Farrar’s body. No one saw him climbing the rock face that day.
A medical examiner noted that Farrar’s injuries weren’t consistent with a fall, according to the affidavit. Wounds on his head had a similar shape and length, and his clothes didn’t have any rips or tears, which would signal a fall, the examiner found. Police said Farrar also had wounds on his hands.
Police interviewed DiPaolo, who said Farrar started choking him at the bottom of the rock face after their argument in the parking lot. The two fell to the ground during the tussle, according to DiPaolo.
DiPaolo said he found a claw hammer nearby as Farrar was choking him and started swinging at the older man until he let him go.
Detectives tried to poke holes in DiPaolo’s version of events, noting:
“When the detective and sergeant questioned DiPaolo then, as to why the victim had wounds on his hands, and suggested that if DiPaolo’s story was true, then DiPaolo must have been swinging the claw hammer at his own neck, DiPaolo did not answer.”
DiPaolo’s father, Vincent, told the Post his son wasn’t a murderer. “If he had to defend himself, then, yeah, he would defend himself,” his father said.
The affidavit is embedded below:
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