Stevenson Ranch murderer denied parole 

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A man convicted of attempted murder and murder was denied parole Tuesday, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. 

A banner front-page headline in The Signal following the sentencing of Michael Dean Stephens, now 33, on Jan. 20, 2011, proclaimed “Stephens gets at least 20,” referring to the years in prison the man was to receive for his second-degree murder and attempted-murder conviction. 

It remains to be seen whether that will be the case, but he’s now facing at least three more years in state prison after a hearing Tuesday. 

Stephens was sentenced to 17 years to life in prison for stabbing Josh Pipho 16 times and then running him over with his car Nov. 23, 2007, in Stevenson Ranch. In a separate plea deal, Stephens also received six years in state prison for the stabbing of Chad Weitz, who also was struck by Stephens’ car. 

The sentences were to be served consecutively, for a total of 23 years, according to reports from the time. 

However, the CDCR held a “consultation” for Stephens on May 4, 2021, and determined he was eligible for parole in November 2022, according to the state’s website. His formal date of admission to the state prison system is listed as Feb. 2, 2011. 

Multiple calls over a two-day period to a number listed on the CDCR website for Lt. Humberto Gastelum, identified as the press information officer for Valley State Prison, were not returned. 

A message left to the CDCR’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services on Wednesday was also not returned as of the publication of this story. 

Following the 2021 consultation, Stephens was given a parole suitability hearing Tuesday, which was conducted via Zoom. 

Stephens, who’s been in custody since he turned himself in to the Lennox Station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on Nov. 29, 2007, was 18 at the time of the murder.  

“Inmate was denied parole for three years,” according to the website, which only states the outcome of the hearing and notes that he’ll be eligible for another hearing in April 2026. 

At that point, Stephens will be 36 and have spent about as much of his life in jail or prison as he has outside of custody — but it would be just shy of 20 years. 

Judge Daniel B. Feldstern declared a mistrial on Stephens’ attempted-murder charge in November 2010, after the jury declared themselves “hopelessly deadlocked.” The jury voted 8-4 in favor of the charges related to the stabbing of Weitz, which led to prosecutors offering the six-year plea deal.  

According to previous reports in The Signal, jurors heard stories from those involved in a series of confrontations that led up to the murder. Pipho had a fight with two of Stephens’ friends before he was stabbed to death. Weitz reportedly shattered the windshield of Stephens’ car with a bat before he was stabbed. 

Stephens testified that he feared for his life at the time of the murders, and he was under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs at the time. 

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