Michael Stark

Man Charged with Kidnapping, Killing Sellersville Man; Victim had been Missing since October 2021

Mar 3rd, 2023

A 49-year-old man was charged Thursday, March 2, 2023, with kidnapping and killing Matthew James Branning, the Sellersville man who has been missing since October 2021 after leaving his job in Silverdale Borough.

Following an unyielding investigation by Detectives with the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office and the Perkasie Borough Police Department with the assistance of the Bucks County Investigating Grand Jury, Michael Allen Stark, of Royersford, was charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and related offenses for killing Branning, his co-worker at Enchlor Inc., in Silverdale.

This investigation, aided by tips from the public, concluded that Stark kidnapped Branning at the end of his work shift on Oct. 15, 2021, forced him to withdraw money from a nearby ATM, and then fled into New Jersey in the victim’s vehicle. At some point during the encounter, Stark killed Branning and disposed of his body.

The victim’s body has yet to be recovered.

On Thursday, the Investigating Grand Jury handed down a presentment, recommending Stark be charged with Branning’s murder. The presentment was accepted by Supervising Judge Raymond F. McHugh.

Stark was arraigned Thursday night by Magisterial District Judge Terrence Hughes on charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, kidnapping, criminal use of a communication facility, flight to avoid apprehension, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse. He is also charged with two counts of robbery and three counts of theft by unlawful taking.

Stark was sent to Bucks County Correctional Facility without bail.

On the day of Branning’s disappearance, just prior to the end of his shift, evidence shows that although Stark failed to appear for his shift, he took an Uber to Enchlor and was lying in wait for Branning.  Shortly thereafter, Branning was captured on surveillance footage withdrawing money from a drive-thru ATM in Sellersville at 4:07 p.m. No one is in his passenger seat, but a person is partially visible in the back seat of Branning’s 2002 Lexus SUV.

Toll and cellphone data showed Branning’s vehicle traveling into Central New Jersey around 5 p.m., and Branning’s bank account is used at a gas station in Somers Point at 7:05 p.m.  Evidence shows that there is over an hour and a half of unaccounted for time in the Somers Point area until both Branning and Stark’s cellphone data is tracked to a Wawa in Cape May two hours later. Stark is seen on surveillance video making a purchase there at 9:27 p.m. but Branning is not seen in the surveillance footage. An employee at the store later said Stark bought a car charger and USB cable.

Branning’s Lexus is then tracked by toll information heading northbound and then westbound on the Atlantic City Expressway. Hours later, Stark’s cellphone data is tracked to Needle Park in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.  

Since the day Branning went missing, there has been no activity on his cellphone, his bank account, and he has had no contact with his family, who he loved dearly.  Branning’s family said he would not travel unexpectedly to New Jersey.

His family also said it is out of character for him to not contact his family or miss work, where he had been employed for nine years. His boss described him as “very loyal, always on time, and showed up every day. If he was running late or if he could not make it to work for whatever reason, he would let somebody know.”

In December 2021, Branning’s vehicle was recovered in Falls Church, Virginia. Forensic evidence was collected from inside the vehicle, tested and linked to Stark.  Also recovered in the vehicle were crack vials linked to the drug market at Needle Park in Kensington.

Branning was an outdoorsman who loved to hike and valued a healthy lifestyle.  He did not use drugs.  As it relates to his finances, he was traditional in that he carried large sums of cash and primarily paid for things with cash or personal checks.

Stark was arrested in April 2022 in Wayne County, Michigan, for a warrant out of Monroe County, Pennsylvania. He was extradited back to Pennsylvania on July 27, 2022.

This investigation was led by Detectives with the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office and the Perkasie Police Department.

The Bucks County District Attorney's Office would also like to commend the work of the Bucks County Investigating Grand Jury and thank the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, Fairfax Virginia Law Enforcement Authorities and the Wayne County Michigan Law Enforcement Authorities for their help in this investigation.  

This case is assigned for prosecution to First Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Schorn and Deputy District Attorney Jovin Jose.

Media Contact: Manuel Gamiz Jr., 215.348.6298, mgamiz@buckscounty.org

Criminal charges are allegations subject to proof in court. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

First Assistant DA Jennifer Schorn Announces Arrest in Kidnapping, Murder of Sellersville Man

Michael Stark