Eccentric man charged in brutal stab-slaying

Memorial has been created where Stephanie Clory was stabbed to death.
Memorial has been created where Stephanie Clory was stabbed to death.
Posted: September 01, 2010

JAMES STOKES often wore Tarzan, Superman and "Star Trek" costumes - and not on Halloween, according to neighbors on his Southwest Philadelphia block.

Stokes, 37, also liked wigs - from Jheri curls to Afros - and once was seen at a local water-ice stand with a lollipop and a sign around his neck that read: "Single man looking for a woman," several neighbors said.

But shortly after midnight Monday, Stokes' eccentric behavior turned deadly when he repeatedly stabbed Stephanie Clory, a 45-year-old mother of three, and dragged her mutilated body out to the sidewalk, police said.

Clory, stabbed multiple times in the face, chest and back, was pronounced dead at the scene at 12:06 a.m., police said.

"I just hope and pray she had enough time to say, 'Lord, have mercy,' " said Clory's mother, Willie Clory.

Stokes was arrested Monday and charged with murder. Police last night were unable to confirm where the arrest had taken place.

Eight of Stokes' neighbors on Peach Street near Warrington Avenue, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that his personality was unusual, to say the least.

A 48-year-old man and an elderly woman said that Stokes, who had two surveillance cameras on his front porch, would come outside in the middle of the night and curse for no apparent reason.

"Late at night, he'd scream like he was a coyote," the woman said.

Several neighbors said that Stokes would dress in a "Star Trek" uniform, replete with boots and a communicator pin, and that he often wore a Superman costume and rode his bicycle around town.

A 51-year-old woman who grew up on the block, and whose 70-year-old mother still lives there, said that Stokes also dressed like Tarzan and would stand on the porch beating his chest.

"He was just really crazy," she said. "He was spooky, he was scary."

Two other neighbors said that they once saw Stokes wearing buttless chaps - and nothing else.

He would hang out at the library, the local water-ice stand and the 18th Police District station, at 55th and Pine streets, where he would watch preliminary hearings, neighbors said.

Creepiest of all, several neighbors said, was that he would hang around elementary schools as they were opening and letting out for the day.

A neighbor who saw Clory's body said that he initially thought that she had suffered a bullet wound to the head, because the stab wounds were so big.

"I ain't for the death penalty, but this guy can have it, he needs it," the neighbor said.

"The electric chair, the firing squad, hanging, the gallows. They need to do all that to him."

Willie Clory said that Stokes had been stalking her daughter, and that she had filed three police reports about him. The police-report filings could not be confirmed last night.

She said that she didn't know why her daughter was at Stokes' house Monday, but feared that Stephanie may have been picking up something for her when she ran into Stokes.

Clory said that her daughter, whose children range in age from 11 to 22, was a security guard who liked to dance, sing, laugh and joke.

When she heard the news from homicide detectives early Monday morning, Clory said, they had to pick her up off the floor.

"I had two kids, now I have one," she said.

"He doesn't know how many people he hurt, he doesn't know how many lives he destroyed."

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