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Charles Arnett STEVENS





Classification: Spree killer
Characteristics: Described as "Urban Hunter" and "Recreational Killer"
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: April-July 1989
Date of arrest: July 27, 1989
Date of birth: 1969
Victims profile: Leslie Ann Noyer, 29 / Lori Anne Rochon, 36 / Laquann Sloan, 16 / Raymond August, 28
Method of murder: Shooting (.357-caliber handgun)
Location: Oakland, Alameda County, California, USA
Status: Sentenced to death in 1993

Charles Arnett Stevens

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

CALIFORNIA— The Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of convicted serial killer Charles Arnett Stevens, age 38.  Stevens was convicted in the late 1980s of murdering four people during a three-month killing spree that ended in 1989. 

The California Supreme Court rejected several of Stevens’ appeals – including that he didn’t have enough african-americans on his jury, that the special circumstance of lying in wait is too close to premeditation and shouldn’t exist, and a few other technical legal appeals.

Charles Arnett Stevens was 20 years old in 1989, as he stalked Oaklands’ streets looking for victims. He is responsible for murdering Leslie Ann Noyer, Lori Anne Rochon, Laquann Sloan and Raymond August with close-range shots from a semi-automatic handgun. He attempted to kill Karen Alice Anderson, Janell Lee, Julia Peters, Paul Fenn, Upendra de Silva and Rodney Stokes.

Authorities at the time and during his 1993 trial described him as an “urban hunter” and a “recreational killer.”


Serial killer could be tied to '89 slaying

By Josh Richman - Oakland Tribune

Jun 23, 2007

Oakland freeway serial killer Charles Arnett Stevens, already on death row for a series of 1989 shootings, is the prime suspect in the unsolved stabbing death of a woman that same year, Oakland Police said Friday.

"We're certain he's responsible for one other murder -- there was evidence at the scene and other evidence uncovered during the investigation into his other spree that links him to this crime very conclusively," Oakland Police Sgt. Tim Nolan said Friday. "It's not the same fashion as these other murders, but I'm certain that he's responsible for it."

The stabbing of Brenda Belvins, 26, had mystified investigators until recently. She was found dead in the morning of April 13, 1989, on a porch on the 900 block of 54th Street in North Oakland.

Nolan -- who investigates "cold cases" by trying to match old evidence with the state's DNA database -- said genetic material found at the scene matches Stevens'.

He also said detectives had found a newspaper clipping on Belvins' slaying at Stevens' home -- along with clippings on his other crimes -- when searching his home after his July 1989 arrest. And he said there may be a heretofore-unreported sexual aspect to Belvins' slaying, but he declined to elaborate.

Stevens was 20 years old when he terrorized the city from April 3 to July 27, 1989, murdering Leslie Ann Noyer, Lori Anne Rochon, Laquann Sloan and Raymond August with close-range shots from a semi-automatic handgun. Noyer and Sloan were slain while standing on streets near I-580, Rochon and August as they drove the freeway.

He also attempted to kill Karen Alice Anderson, Janell Lee, Julia Peters, Paul Fenn, Upendra de Silva and Rodney Stokes. Authorities at the time and during his 1993 trial described him as an "urban hunter" and a "recreational killer."

The state Supreme Court on June 4 upheld his conviction and death sentence for the shootings, ruling on the direct, automatic appeal of his 1993 trial. He still has a habeas corpus case -- a re- investigation of the whole case in which new evidence can be brought in or existing evidence can be recast -- pending before the same court, and could in the future file a similar case in federal court.

Barry Karl, the Redwood City attorney handling Stevens' habeas case, couldn't be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Nolan and Sgt. Derwin Longmire visited Stevens on death row at San Quentin State Prison recently to interview him about Belvins' case, but he refused to talk.

Oakland Police Sgt. Dan Mercado investigated Belvins' slaying at the time. He retired in 1999 and now owns a Martinez landscaping business, but said Friday he remembers Belvins as "the only murder case I didn't solve that year."

"All we had was a body," he said, recalling how a canvass of the neighborhood turned up no clues, no witnesses, no leads. "There wasn't much, we never got much going on the case at all."

Karen Adams of Fairfield -- Rochon's sister, who attended Stevens' trial and vowed to attend his execution -- said Friday she's "really not surprised" to hear that he has been linked to another slaying.

"Just looking at him, looking in his eyes and at his attitude and the way he moved, I just knew that he probably had done a lot of other terrible, terrible things," she said. "He really did not or does not, as far as I'm concerned, have a soul. He just looked like such an evil person."

Adams recalled the awful weeks her family endured between Rochon's murder and Stevens' capture, without any real leads or indications the case could be solved; she said she can't imagine what Belvins' family must've endured during 18 years of mystery.

"Murder is a terrible thing for the people who are left behind, and an unanswered murder where you don't know who did it, why, what reason -- it's an unbearable thing to have to live with."

She hopes knowing Stevens' name will help ease their pain. She has been angry that Stevens' appeals are dragging on for so long, but said that "if he did it and they can convict him, I would rather wait for him to go to lethal injection so that the family can have the closure of him being convicted for killing their loved one."


A Serial Killer´s Legacy

June 26, 2007

ED NEWBEGIN listened as a prosecutor asked a witness what his life had been like since his son became a serial killer’s final victim. The witness replied, “I have no life — it ended that day.”

"The revelation it led me to is that when something like a murder happens, it’s as if a bomb were dropped by the murderer right there at ground zero where the victim is, but the blast has impact on the people closest to the victim and the murderer and ripples outward to investigators, jurors and everyone else around the case”, Newbegin said.

That revelation came 14 years ago, and 18 years now have passed since Charles Arnett Stevens killed four people and tried to kill six more in a three-month series of random shootings on or near Interstate 580 in Oakland.

California’s Supreme Court upheld his conviction and death sentence June 4. But Stevens, now 38, still has another, separate court case pending and has not yet asked federal courts to intervene. He’s nowhere near a needle.

Now, Oakland Police say Stevens is responsible for another murder —the April 1989 stabbing of Brenda Belvins, 26, whose body was found on theporch of a house on 54th Street in North Oakland. The case remained unsolved until DNA found at the scene recently matched up with Stevens’. Police are still gathering other evidence; charges haven’t been filed yet, but they’re confident enough to say definitively that it was Stevens’ dark work.

So another set of friends and amily are joining the sad fraternity of those carrying the taint of Stevens’ crimes in their minds and hearts everyday. All these years later, the ripples keep buffeting those around him.

He’s on death row, but none of them are completely free.

The high school girlfriend

Mia Chatman was an Oakland Technical High School sophomore in 1987 when she noticed a shy, good-looking senior named Charles Stevens. Her parents said she was too young to date, but she flirted with him and soon they were “dating” — which mostly meant hanging out together at school.

“He seemed to be a very shy kind of kid, he didn’t have very many friends, but I figured it to be that he didn’t dress nicely, he didn’t have a lot of money,” she said. “I’d say ‘Let’s go to lunch’ and he would just say he wasn’t hungry — he wouldn’t admit he didn’t have any money.”

“I always remember me doing more of the talking than he did,” Chatman said, and he ran home from school every day “like someone was chasing him,” saying he had duties there. He’d call furtively, saying, “If I hang up with you, don’t be upset with me, it’ll be because my dad came home.”

He always spoke kindly of his mother, she said: “I remember him talking as if she were still there. … I got the impression that his mother was still alive.” But his mother, a violent alcoholic, had died in March 1986.

“It didn’t seem like he was crazy, it just seemed like he was embarrassed by his situation and it didn’t allow him to open up to people,” Chatman said. They dated for a few months before she broke up with him: “I thought it was just too much — I was trying to have fun and he could not.”

Two years later, as the I-580 shootings mounted, “I remember everyone including myself afraid to drive on the freeway, it was so random,” she said. “And when I did hear that it was him,… it was like, ‘Oh my God.’”

She considered writing to him in prison to ask “Why?” but she never did; today she’s a 36-year-old Stockton mom, still wondering. When she and old Oakland friends reminisce, “it always comes up ‘that Mia dated a killer,’” but for her it’s no laughing matter. Recent news reports brought it back to the forefront, but it’s never far from her mind.

“It just makes me sad for him,” she said, starting to cry. “He was actually a really nice kid.”

An investigating officer

Oakland Police Sgt. Brian Thiem and his partner responded early one morning in 1989 to I-580, where California Highway Patrol officers checking a crashed car had found the driver shot to death. The homicide investigators soon found themselves on a serial killer’s trail.

By the time it was over, four people — Leslie Noyer, 29; Laquan Sloan, 16; Lori Rochon, 36; and Raymond August, 28 — would be dead, and at least six others would have narrowly escaped death. Noyer and Sloan were slain while standing on streets near I-580, Rochon and August as they drove the freeway. The random shootings, from April through July of that year, held the city transfixed in terror.

The case broke with bravery and luck, when Rodney Stokes, 24 — an I-580 motorist at whom Stevens, riding alongside in his own car, had shot but missed moments before — shut off his headlights and tailed the assailant as he fatally shot August in the wee hours of Thursday, July 27, 1989. Stokes watched the shooter exit the freeway and then park on the opposite side’s onramp to watch police arrive; Stokes pointed the car out to police, who nabbed Stevens, 20, right there with his .357-caliber Desert Eagle semiautomatic handgun.

“When he was arrested, we got to interview him first,” Thiem said. “When we walked into the interview room with him and read him his rights and he agreed to talk, we could tell right from the beginning that this was not the normal type of Oakland murderer. … He really thought he was smarter than (Sgt. John) McKenna and I, and he might’ve been right. He wouldn’t even admit to being on planet Earth when these murders happened, we could get absolutely nowhere with him.”

“There was a very arrogant, defiant air about him,” Thiem added. “This is the kind of guy we knew should never walk the streets again.”

The feeling was confirmed when Thiem helped search Stevens’ home and saw a crude scorecard Stevens kept of his crimes. “It gave me a chill.”

Thiem, now 52, retired in 2005 and now lives on the East Coast. He often had to consult old notes when testifying about cases, but details of this one come easily — sometimes, unbidden — to his mind.

“That was one of the more notorious cases I ever worked on. It’s not often we get a true psychopathic serial killer, and Charles Stevens was one,” he said. “Most homicide investigators will go through their entire career and will not see anything remotely like this.”

Two who got away

Paul Fenn and Julia Peters were riding in a van on I-580 early on the morning of July 16, 1989, when it was hit by gunfire; Peters was cut by flying glass and was treated at a local hospital.

Fenn e-mailed this newspaper June 4, the day the state Supreme Court had upheld Stevens’ death sentence. “Depressing news, is there a date?” he asked.

When told Stevens probably has years still left to him, Fenn replied he’d been shocked to read of the case after so long “but I am an opponent of the death penalty. Neither Julia nor I was killed. John Cutler was also with us when we were attacked, I married Julia and John is my good friend. Julia was injured.

“So I might feel different if one of us were among the man’s fatalities,” he wrote. “But I oppose the death penalty and would likely say something against the execution of this fellow, as life without parole would solve the problem without killing the man.”

Fenn is now executive director and Peters is managing director of Local Power, a nonprofit helping implement California’s community-choice electric utility law. Fenn initially agreed to be interviewed further for this story, but later declined, saying he found discussing the case “depressing…. It’s hard to get excited about it.”

The jury foreman

Ed Newbegin said his fellow jurors chose him as foreman because he was a high school and Little League baseball umpire, which he remains today. “You’ve got to keep bringing fairness to the world,” the 52-year-old dog sitter and folk singer from Concord said with a chuckle.

But those months he spent in the courtroom in 1993 were emotionally trying, he said.

“We had one fellow on the jury who’d been a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, and we had to put Post-it notes over some of the photos because it was bringing back bad memories for him,” he recalled — photos like those of Leslie Ann Noyer, 29, shot thrice in the head, point-blank and with particularly powerful ammunition, on April 3, 1989, on a street near I-580.

“It took us an hour and a half to decide what to do, and the only reason it took that long is there was one juror who didn’t quite know how to vote” on punishment, he said. They discussed it, and soon agreed “we were not the ones who were sending him to his death — here was a man who had made decisions that sent him down a road, and at the end of that road is a chair.”

Their first formal vote was unanimous, and after the judge dismissed them, “we all went out to a bar … just sort of like a wake, if you will,” Newbegin said. “We knew we weren’t going to be getting together for reunions or anything afterward. We’d been brought together in this little psychological crucible, and now we were free. We were euphoric and melancholy all at the same time.”

Newbegin since has come to believe the death penalty “simply isn’t applied properly, evenly,” and these racial and socio-economic inequities warrant a moratorium until the system can be made fairer. But Stevens was a death-penalty “poster boy,” he said, adding he’s unconcerned that the appeals are 14 years in progress with no end in sight: “Let anybody who’s condemned have all the days in court they can have, because some will be exonerated. He won’t be.”

“From time to time, I’ve wished honestly that I could sit in front of that guy and just ask him, ‘Why, why did you do it?’” he said. “He didn’t have such a bad life, he had a brain… I still don’t get it, why he felt it was so important to take that gun and go out and kill people, innocent lives, people he didn’t even know.”

The murderer

Barry Karl, the Redwood City attorney representing Stevens in his ongoing habeas corpus case — a re-investigation of the whole case in which new evidence can be brought in or existing evidence can be recast — said he hasn’t seen his client in person for years.

Death-row inmates undergo body-cavity searches upon leaving and re-entering their cells for attorney visits, and those visits must be arranged weeks in advance, so attorneys tend not to go unless necessary. Karl said Stevens has written to him as recently as about a month ago, but attorney-client privilege precludes him from discussing the letters or Stevens’ condition and state of mind.

Richard James Clark Jr. in May 1993 pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter, admitting he was with Stevens the night that Leslie Noyer was shot; neither ever admitted pulling the trigger. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison; Karl said Clark served his time and was released, and Clark’s lawyer since then has refused to let Karl talk to Clark about Stevens’ appeal.

Karl filed his last papers in Stevens’ habeas case in March 2004, and the ball is now in the Supreme Court’s court — it could schedule oral arguments, or it could rule on the case immediately, or it could continue considering the briefs for years to come. Nobody knows.

“I do think that Mr. Stevens should’ve gotten a more complete defense, and had he got that more complete defense, there is a reasonable likelihood that the jury would not have sentenced him to death,” Karl said

For example, he said, Stevens’ trial lawyer never hired an expert to challenge the ballistics evidence, and didn’t adequately probe Stevens’ childhood sexual and physical abuse. On one of the slayings, Karl claimed, Clark’s testimony was the only rock-solid link between Stevens and the crime.

These and other factors might’ve convinced jurors to let Stevens live, Karl contends, or even might’ve led them to find him guilty of a lesser degree of murder, making him ineligible for the death penalty altogether.

If the state Supreme Court disagrees, Karl will file a habeas corpus petition in federal court. Meanwhile, Stevens remains among 665 inmates on death row, of whom 41 — including Stevens — were sent by Alameda County. The average time from arrival on death row to execution is 17.5 years.

But California’s executions have been halted for 16 months so far by a federal judge who ordered prison officials to revise procedures to ensure inmates don’t suffer unnecessarily. Of 71 deaths on death row since 1978, 14 have been executions and the rest have been from natural causes or suicides.

A victim’s father

William August was the witness who inspired Newbegin’s revelation about the case’s ripple effects by testifying in 1993 that his own life had ended when his son’s did.

“My whole life just went on hold, the things I’d planned to do before, they’re not even in the plans anymore, so here I am,” August said recently, sitting in the East Oakland home he and his wife used to share with his son.

Raymond August was born on President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration day, Jan. 20, 1961, so the airline mechanical engineer — who abhorred violence so much that as a child he refused the BB gun his father gave him — would now be 46 had he not died at Highland Hospital 18 years ago next month.

William August, a 74-year-old retired Alameda postmaster, slips into speaking in the second person — as if talking to Stevens directly — seemingly without awareness: “At the rate that we’re executing people in California, I don’t know if we’re going to get to you. … All you’re doing is getting life in prison.”

“This has been an aching process for me all this time because I don’t know what I can expect — I expect he will die in prison, probably,” he said, adding that’s unfair. “There are certain crimes that the death penalty was instituted for, and this is one of those. You have to take those kind of people out of society. They have lost their right to live.”

He visits his son’s grave in St. Mary’s Cemetery every week, and attends a support group for murder victims’ families every month. His wife, Geraldine, doesn’t go to the support group; she went to private counseling for a few years, but still can’t bear sharing her pain so often, so publicly.

“It was a very frustrating time, and I’m still in a very sad state,” William August said. “Losing your kid is the worst thing that can happen. You never expect to bury your kid, and I had to do that, and I can’t get over it."



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