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Stephens will soon have day in court

Trial: Man charged in murder of Joshua Pipho to face trial

Posted: July 24, 2010 9:55 p.m.
Updated: July 25, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Michael Dean Stephens

 

Joshua Pipho would be 23 this year, probably helping his dad with a growing audio-visual business.

“He probably would still be working with his father, running around here and there, flying around the country,” said Pipho’s pal Robin James. “He could have been running his own crews for that company.”

But on Nov. 24, 2007, Pipho was brutally stabbed to death in a parking lot of the Diamond Head condominium complex in Stevenson Ranch.

The man accused of killing him will soon have his day in court.

Michael Dean Stephens,21, who was 18 at the time of the murder he is accused of, is scheduled to appear in San Fernando Superior Court on Aug. 10 for a pretrial hearing to set a firm date for his trial to begin.

That trial will likely begin sometime before September, court officials say.

“I have no comment,” said the accused man’s father, Dean Stephens, when reached by phone.

Pipho, who was born in Mission Hills in April 1987, grew up in Santa Clarita, a good portion of that time maturing in a Canyon High School baseball uniform.

But, when the Stephens trial begins, lawyers are expected to focus on the tragic events of Nov. 24, 2007, the night Pipho reportedly confronted a group of men vandalizing a vehicle after leaving a party.

 SCV murder trials
Deputy District Attorney Mary Sedgwick just spent the better part of her summer prosecuting one of the most disgusting cases to befall the Santa Clarita Valley.

Sedgwick successfully convinced a jury in San Fernando Superior Court to find Antonio Rodriguez guilty of sexual assault, torture and murder in the savage beating death of 5-year-old Desarie Saravia.

On Friday, she delivered her final arguments to the jury urging them to recommend Rodriguez receive the death penalty. Sedgwick is also slated to be the one who prosecutes Desarie’s mother, Debby Saravia, sometime this fall.

But on Aug. 10, she’s expected to open the books on another one of Santa Clarita’s darker moments – the violent

Delete - Merge Upstabbing death of Josh Pipho.
The court date is a pretrial conference at which she and a private lawyer hired by the accused man’s family are expected to figure out when the Stephens trial should begin.

The question becomes: Which defendant will she prosecute first: Debby Saravia or Michael Dean Stephens?

Some in Santa Clarita have been counting down the days for the Stephens trial to begin.

“This is not going to go away,” said Joshua James, Robin James’ son. “It’s been three years, and they’ve been kind of pushing this off. I guess they’re hoping everyone cools off.

“But brutal as this murder was, we’ve got to get to it.”

James says if his pal was still alive they would be playing baseball.

“He was always talking about us all starting our own baseball team,” he said. “He would have been doing something with his life.

“He was so gung ho about baseball, ever since he was with the Canyon (High School) team.”

Troubled times
Michael Dean Stephens had his share of trouble growing up in Santa Clarita.

The former Valencia High School student, who had attended Placerita Junior High School before that, was later transferred to the specialized Bowman High School.

He graduated from Bowman in 2007, and his future was looking brighter.

Things unraveled for him quickly, however, in the early hours of Nov. 24, 2007.

Pipho and Chad Weitz, then 22, had just left a party in one of the condos at the Diamond Head complex when they allegedly spotted a group of men vandalizing a vehicle.

After a brief confrontation, Pipho was stabbed multiple times and then run over by a car.

Weitz was treated at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital for multiple stab wounds allegedly inflicted during the same confrontation.

Four days later, on the day a warrant was issued for his arrest for murder, Stephens surrendered.

On Nov. 28, 2007, he walked into the Lennox station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and turned himself in without incident.

Three days later, he was arraigned in San Fernando Superior Court on a charge of murder and attempted premeditated murder His bail was set at just over $2 million.

If convicted, Stephens, who has remained in custody at the Men’s Central Jail, could face two life sentences.

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