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West Asheville homeless man's friend charged with his killing

Joshua Christopher Stebbins and Buford James Penley frequented a West Asheville bar and often saw each other there. Stebbins was found dead Thursday morning. On Friday, Penley was charged with first-degree murder. (Photo credit: Myra Price)

Joshua Christopher Stebbins and Buford James Penley frequented a West Asheville bar and often saw each other there.

Stebbins was found dead Thursday morning. On Friday, Penley was charged with first-degree murder.

RELATED | APD makes arrest in death of homeless man

Asheville police made an arrest Friday in the death of a homeless man.

According to friends, Stebbins, 46, and Penley, 42, knew one another and would see each other often at Just One More.

"There was no means or reasoning," said Myra Price, who used to bartend there. "He was friends with him for years."

RELATED | Surveillance shows homeless man before he was killed

Penley is accused of killing Stebbins with blunt force trauma to the head and body. A friend found Stebbins in a make-shift shelter behind the Sunoco station on Patton Avenue at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Police haven't released a motive.

"You don't take another human's life like that, and Josh didn't deserve it," Price said.

According to Price and Just One More owner Mark Erwin, Stebbins ended up homeless after he was in a moped accident a couple years ago. They said Stebbins, who was working as a builder, was driving home when it happened.

"It messed him up pretty good. I think he laid in the hospital for three or four months," Erwin said. "We were trying to check to see how he was doing. They said he would never make it out, but he made it out."

RELATED | APD officially investigating 'suspicious death' as a homicide

Erwin and Price said doctors placed a metal plate in Stebbins head. He also lost some function of his left arm. They said Stebbins' West Asheville apartment was rented to someone else while he was recovering.

"He liked to drink a little bit. That ain't no sin or crime. That's his choice," Price said. "I tried to get him into rehab or stay at the home, but he knew what he was doing. We just let him roll."

Price said Stebbins moved to the area several years ago and studied mechanical engineering in Canada.

He sometimes stayed and ate at the Western Carolina Rescue Mission. Organizers there said he never caused any problems, Erwin said the same can be said for his bar.

"He never got angry or hateful," Erwin said. "He got along with everybody."

Penley is being held in the Buncombe County Detention Facility under no bond. His first court appearance will be 9 a.m. Monday.

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