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Judge finds convicted SLO County double-murderer legally sane, will be sentenced

SLO Co. Superior Court.JPG
Posted at 1:16 PM, Apr 28, 2023

A San Luis Obispo County man who was convicted this month for a 2001 double murder has been deemed legally sane, a superior court judge ruled Friday.

Judge Jacquelyn Duffy of the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court ruled that Stephen Arthur Deflaun’s defense did not meet their burden of proof and has been deemed “legally sane” at the time he murdered two individuals at Morro Strand State Beach in July 2001, according to a press release from the SLO County District Attorney's office.

"At long last, our community has delivered justice for Stephen; justice for Jerry; and justice for Ranger Jackson," District Attorney Dan Dow said in a prepared statement. "We are grateful to the jury, all those who investigated and testified, and our prosecution team who performed with excellence."

Deflaun’s defense attempted to have Deflaun, who is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, declared legally incompetent by entering a "not guilty by reason of insanity" plea during a June 2022 hearing.

A legally incompetent ruling — during what's called the "sanity phase" of the trial — would not have overturned Deflaun's conviction from the guilt phase of the trial.

But such a ruling would have likely kept him out of prison and instead committed to a mental health facility.

Deflaun was convicted by a jury on April 19 of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of assault on a peace officer with a firearm.

The trial lasted three weeks.

Deflaun, 63, is scheduled to be sentenced June 2. He faces a sentence of life in prison without the possibility
of parole.

Deflaun shot and killed 37-year-old Stephen Wells and his nephew, 11-year-old Jerry Rios, following an argument over a campsite at Morro Strand State Beach on July 8, 2001. He then shot at a state park ranger, Charles Jackson — a crime he was also found guilty of.

A forensic pathologist said in a 2004 court hearing that Deflaun, who had already been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, would never be expected competent enough to stand trial, Chloe Jones of the San Luis Obispo Tribune reported earlier this month.

That ruling changed in December of 2021, when Deflaun was found to have been restored to competence, according to the DA's press release.

Deflaun was held in San Luis Obispo County Jail until the date of his trial.