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UPDATED: A wild night ends in deadly confrontation

Witness describes scene of deadly fight between murder suspect and victim

Posted: October 26, 2010 10:15 p.m.
Updated: October 27, 2010 10:58 a.m.

An Erickson Air-Crane makes a hillside water drop near an inmate crew on the side of Interstate 5 southbound lanes north of Lake Hughes Road in Castaic on Tuesday. A 10-acre blaze, which erupted about 12:33 p.m., was contained by fire crews approximately one hour after it started, according to Los Angeles County Fire Department officials.

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A wild drunken night of screaming, fighting, shattered glass, screeching cars and spilled blood three years ago was described in further detail at the murder trial of Michael Dean Stephens on Tuesday.

Timothy Woodhead, a friend of the accused man, continued telling a San Fernando Superior Court jury his account of what happened on Nov. 23, 2007, the night 20-year-old Josh Pipho died.

In a slow, baritone voice, Woodhead picked up his story where he left off Monday testifying for the defense.

Woodhead was with Stephens and two other friends -- Daniel Bateman and "Joey" -- at the Diamond Head apartment complex and had already consumed three cups of wine, "four or five" beers, marijuana and "street Xanax" -- an often-abused prescription drug.

"I was a little intoxicated," he said on the witness stand.

"A little?" said Deputy District Attorney Mary Sedgwick.

Although he was intoxicated, Woodhead said he did not recall seeing Stephens drink anything that night.

In her opening statements presented at the start of the trial, Sedgwick said Stephens stabbed Pipho about 16 times then intentionally ran over him. Stephens then ran down another man, Chris Weitz, and also stabbed him about 16 times, she said.

Pipho died at the scene; Weitz survived.

Stephens, now 21, is charged with murder and attempted premeditated murder.

The confrontation at Diamond Head began with yelling between two groups: Stephens' group and Pipho's group, Woodhead said.

Someone in Stephens' group threw a beer bottle at a truck as people were leaving, he said, then a fight broke out in which Woodhead and Daniel Bateman were badly beaten.

As the pair lay on the ground, Bateman unconscious and Woodhead - his arm in a sling from a prior injury - in pain, Stephens drove the car over to them. They got in.

"Mike (Stephens) was driving, Joey was in the front, Daniel was in the back on the passenger side and I was in the middle on the left passenger side," Woodhead said.

"(Daniel) was still going in and out of consciousness," he said of Daniel. "And I was trying to wake him up."

Woodhead looked up when he heard a loud "bump" and saw someone on the hood of the car.

"I saw someone in a white T-shirt. I heard a hitting noise and saw a figure on top of the hood."

Stephens' defense lawyer, Peter J. Korn, asked him what direction the car traveled then, but Woodhead said he was too busy tending to his injured friend in the backseat to notice.

"I do remember him scraping his car," he said. "Then I saw Mike getting out of the car."

At that point, Joey got of the car, so did Woodhead.

"I didn't feel safe sitting there," Woodhead said. "I didn't want anyone to come and attack the car."

People were running everywhere, he said.

"I started screaming ‘(expletive) you, guys' and ‘(expletive) you' and ‘You mother (expletives).' because I was scared," he said.

Woodhead walked about 10 feet, picked up a portion of the car's fender that had fallen off and put it in the car.

"Mike ran down a trail to the right of his car," he said. "He was back pretty quickly, under a minute, probably 20 to 30 seconds."

When Stephens returned to the car, Woodhead noticed he was covered in blood and shaking.

"He was shaking and he said ‘We better get out of here,'" Woodhead said.

With Stephens driving, the four friends -- Woodhead, Joey, Bateman and Stephens- returned to the Stephens home on Singer Place.

There, Woodhead said he saw Stephens standing on the hood of the same car at Singer Place reaching up in an attempt to fix an automatic garage door chain.

Once in the house, Woodhead said he remained on the Stephens' couch in pain due, in part, to a traffic accident two days earlier.

Woodhead said the accident happened when he had been skateboarding and was being towed by a friend driving a car, when the car sped up and sent him crashing, breaking his collarbone.

At some point in the night, back at the Stephens' home, Woodhead said he vaguely remembers leaving with his friends to buy more beer.

"I was trying to get more drunk to get rid of the pain," he said.

The defense is expected to continue its case today.

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