A high level of methamphetamine in her blood played a key role in causing Deborah Ann Stephens’ death, the attorney representing the man accused of killing her told a Shawnee County District Court jury on Tuesday.
Kevin Shepherd, defense attorney for Jon K. “Kelly” Ewing, acknowledged that video showed Ewing hitting Stephens in the head the morning she died, but said her head wounds were all superficial.
Evidence and testimony presented during the trial will show that Stephens died of heavy bleeding in the torso after suffering a minor rib fracture, and that meth intoxication and a long history of methamphetamine abuse were key factors who contributed, Shepherd said.
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The judging panel is made up of nine men and five women, including two alternates
Shepherd spoke during the opening arguments for the trial for Ewing, 63, who is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary, felony making and interference with a law enforcement officer.
The allegations are related to the death of Stephens, 58, on April 27, 2021, in his mobile home just south of Topeka.
Ewing’s trial began Monday with the selection of a jury of nine men and five women, including two alternatives. It is expected to last several days, according to the Shawnee County District Court website.
Ewing has a home in Scranton but has been spending a lot of time with Stephens in his mobile home at 801 SW 57th, Lot A7, just south of Topeka, Shepherd said Tuesday.
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Prosecutor: Ewing said he probably would have ‘cut off her head clean off’
Law enforcement received 44 calls to that mobile home between April 2020 and April 2021 about domestic disputes between Stephens and Ewing, Shepherd said.
Assistant District Attorney Will Manly told jurors that Ewing was an inmate at the Shawnee County Jail on April 25, 2021, when he expressed intent to kill Stephens when he got out, saying he would likely “cut off her head.” .
Ewing is “very impulsive” and has a history of yelling at people, then calming down, Shepherd said.
Ewing was incarcerated on April 25, 2021 in connection with drug possession and assaulting a law enforcement officer, as well as exceptional felony warrants. He was later released on bail.
Ewing blamed Stephens for being in jail, Manly said.
She said law enforcement was called three times to Stephens’ mobile home during the early morning hours of the day she died, April 27, 2021.
On their last call, just before 6 a.m., the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Deputies left after Stephens came out and apparently saw them, but tried to reach out to them, which left them thinking he didn’t needed help, he said.
Defense Attorney: Ewing did not have the mental capacity to plan a murder
Manly said a camera from Stephens’ home security system showed Ewing attacking her outside her mobile home shortly thereafter, grabbing her hair and dragging her towards her mobile home, then picking up an ax Stephens kept just inside the her front door and using it to repeatedly hit her on the head before pushing her inside.
Ewing is then shown on video cleaning up the mess, Manly said.
At about 5:00 p.m. that day, Ewing phoned an Osage County Sheriff’s Office deputy he knew to report Stephens’ death, Shepherd said.
Ewing later gave law enforcement a false account of what happened, including saying that Stephens had “tainted” him, Manly said.
Shepherd said he intended to show the jury how Ewing’s history of motorcycle accidents and head injuries, as well as his meth abuse, left him without the mental capacity to plan a murder.
Testimony in Ewing’s trial continued Tuesday after the opening arguments ended.
Contact Tim Hrenchir at [email protected] or 785-213-5934.