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Man who killed two people at Morro Bay campground in 2001 sentenced to life in prison

Stephen Arthur Deflaun background 2021.jpg
Posted at 5:01 PM, Jul 10, 2023

A man who was convicted earlier this year of a double murder back in 2001 was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Stephen Arthur Deflaun shot and killed Stephen Donahue Wells, 37, and Jerry Rios Jr., 11, at the Morro Strand State Beach campground. He was also convicted of assault with a firearm on a California State Parks ranger.

On July 8, 2001, Wells pulled into the campground in an RV with his wife and four children, including his nephew, Rios Jr. Since there were no open spaces large enough for the RV, they asked Deflaun, whose van was parked in a large campsite, if he intended to spend the night there. That resulted in an argument and Wells went to report Deflaun to a park ranger for being intoxicated and threatening the children. Deflaun followed the RV to the ranger kiosk and shot Wells and Rios Jr. He then pointed his gun at a ranger who was able to subdue Deflaun by shooting him with his shotgun.

While Deflaun was taken into custody after the incident, he was initially declared incompetent to stand trial. In December 2021, he was found to have been restored to competency.

In June 2022, Deflaun pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity.

He went on trial in 2023, and on April 19, a jury found Deflaun, who is now 64, guilty. A week later, a judge found that he was legally sane when he committed the crimes.