AP NEWS

‘Scary’ acts bring 200-year term

April 7, 2019

An Allen County judge called his criminal acts “strikingly scary” when she ordered Deyante Stephens to spend 200 years in prison for three murders.

Stephens, 27, killed two women and the near-term fetus of one of the victims Jan. 20, 2018, inside a home on Lillie Street. Prosecutors said he was high on synthetic marijuana when “all hell broke loose” and he shot Preonda Jones, 37, and Brianna Gould, 24, who was carrying a boy she named Legend.

“You are one of the worst offenders I have ever seen,” said Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull, who took the bench in 1997.

She sentenced him Friday to 180 years on three counts of murder and added 20 years on a sentencing enhancement for using a gun to commit the crimes. The sentences will be served back to back.

Police arrived at the home around 6:40 a.m. to find Jones dead and Gould clinging to life. Gould was taken to a hospital, where she died.

Stephens was found two hours later on Serenity Drive, where a witness testified at trial he was trying to break into an apartment. He was bleeding from his hand and had blood on the sweatsuit he was wearing.

Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Alison Yeager told jurors that Stephens thought the women were cops when he shot them.

“Brianna was a good girl. She had a 6-year-old daughter, and I’m now taking care of that little girl,” Linda Main, Brianna’s grandmother, said Friday. “This should have never happened. I loved her so much. I look at her daughter every day and see Brianna’s face.”

Stephens, wearing an orange, jail-issued jumpsuit and seated between defense attorneys Anthony Churchward and John Watkins, looked at Main as she cried but did not react.

Asked by the judge if he had anything to say, Stephens responded quietly: “No, ma’am.”

His lawyers said at trial Stephens was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He and another man left the house after hearing a loud noise and returned to find the women shot, the attorneys argued.

Jurors didn’t buy the explanation and found Stephens guilty of three counts of murder and the sentencing enhancement.

“First and foremost, Deyante disagrees with the verdict,” Churchward said. “Notwithstanding the verdict, he has expressed remorse.”

A woman who identified herself as Stephens’ sister said her brother is close to his family : a fact Churchward asked the judge to consider when handing down the sentence.

Gull pointed instead to prior criminal convictions including reckless homicide and armed robbery.

Stephens pleaded guilty in 2010 to shooting a friend to death, and he served more than three years in federal prison after he and two other men robbed a bank in 2013, court records show.

Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Tom Chaille said stints in prison and on probation have had little effect on Stephens’ behavior. “Nothing that the courts have done have prevented (him) from acting out violently,” he said.

Stephens said he will appeal.

mleblanc@jg.net