Bowen given 25-to-life sentence for murder
A Lassen County jury convicted Bowen, also known as Stephen Johnson, of the crimes on Wednesday, Feb. 20. He suffers from liver disease, and a 2006 trial was postponed when a doctor said he had only two weeks to live.
A Serna motion filed by the defense, alleging the defendant was unable to receive a fair trial because of the time between the offense and the trial, was denied because the defense failed to show the delay prejudiced its case.
Maggie Krell, a prosecutor from the California Attorney General’s Office, said there is no statute of limitations on murder and the defense would have to show it couldn’t get a fair trial due to the time between the 1988 murder and the 2007 trial. She said they were able to call and cross-examine witnesses and were unable to show the delay hurt the case.
Krell praised the work of law enforcement in making the case against Bowen, especially the Lassen County Sheriff’s Department.
“I can’t say enough positive things about the Lassen County Sheriff’s Department,” Krell said.
Even though the murder occurred in 1988, she said the department continued to work the case.
She said much of the credit goes to former LCSD Sgt. Bruce Stelzer, who retired in 1989. According to the prosecutor, Stelzer “never gave up” even though it was a “long and methodical investigation” that eventually “brought this guy to justice.”
She said the Redding Police Department helped with the prosecution as well.
“This is a great example of collaboration by multiple agencies,” Krell said.
While Bowen already has two strikes and “a lot of felony convictions,” she said the case wasn’t filed as a strike because the murder occurred in 1988. She said Bowen received the 25-years-to-life sentence because of the first-degree murder conviction.
The jury found that sometime during July 1988, Bowen killed Kevin Behm, then 22, of New York, by shooting him twice in the back of the head in an isolated area off Eagle Lake Road, a short distance from where it meets Highway 36.
Bowen and Behm were allegedly involved in a number of burglaries in the Reno area and had a falling out. According to testimony during the trial, the two men were members of a burglary ring operating in Nevada that included several other members.
After Bowen discovered Behm had made some long-distance phone calls to his family in New York from a room the ring shared at a Reno motel and was planning to go home, Bowen allegedly drove him to an isolated location on Eagle Lake Road about a 1/4-mile north of the current Forest Service building walked him into the forest, shot him twice in the back of the head and left the body for the scavengers.
Deer hunters found the scattered remains and clothing and reported them to the sheriff’s department at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 12, 1988. By then, the remains were severely decomposed and investigators had to study the scene and evidence to identify the body.
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