An Anne Arundel County jury this afternoon found Michael Stahlnecker guilty of First-Degree Murder and Use of a Handgun in a Felony in the November 2012 killing of John Patrick Ryan, State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess announced.
Leitess, who prosecuted the case, will seek a sentence of life without parole. Sentencing is scheduled for May 6 before Judge Pamela North in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in Annapolis. Stahlnecker, 51, of Crofton, remains held without bond.
“John Patrick Ryan’s murder was senseless,” Leitess said. “It was for greed – over a petty disagreement. His murder has devastated so many families, and left behind a 30-year-old wife and two young children.”
Members of the Frederick County Maryland Narcotics Task Force began an investigation into Ryan four months before his death after receiving a reliable tip that he was involved in a large-scale marijuana operation in Maryland and California. In October 2012, investigators tapped Ryan’s cell phone and identified Stahlnecker as a close associate.
That month, investigators followed Ryan to California, where they determined he and Stahlnecker had checked in and out of a hotel together.
About one month later, investigators tracked Ryan to a Laurel warehouse leased by Stahlnecker. Investigators observed Ryan and Stahlnecker meeting at a restaurant in Laurel. The pair later returned to the warehouse until just after 6 p.m., when they were seen exiting with small bags in hand.
Investigators became suspicious two days later when all incoming calls to Ryan’s cell phone began directly going to voicemail. Investigators confirmed with the wireless carrier that the phone was powered off, which was out of character for Ryan. It was determined that Ryan did not show up for an appointment. He would later miss a flight to San Francisco.
Ryan’s wife reported her husband missing on November 29. Stahlnecker told police he hadn’t seen Ryan for a month, which investigators knew to be false.
Three days later, police served a search warrant at Stahlnecker’s warehouse, where they located a spent shell casing and what was determined to be Ryan’s blood near the rear loading dock of the business. The blood appeared to have been sprayed down in an attempt to clean it up. A broom also was located, which contained Ryan’s blood.
Ryan’s car was located the following day in Montgomery County. His body was found in the trunk. He had been shot twice in the head. His cell phone, wallet and a floor mat of the vehicle were missing. A pound of marijuana and $1,000 in cash was found next to Ryan’s body.
Leitess thanked Maryland State Police Cpl. Jonathan Martin and Sgt. Richard Bachtell, Sgt. Brian Elliott of the Frederick County Office Narcotics Task Force, FBI Special Agent Richard Fennern and Homeland Security for their hard work and assistance with this case.