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Published: Friday, 10/1/2004

Slaying victim died from stab wounds

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - A Pemberville woman found slain in her car Wednesday died from stab wounds to the chest and neck, an autopsy performed yesterday showed.

Sandra K. Smith, 48, most likely died immediately from the wounds to her chest, said Dr. Douglas Hess, Wood County coroner. Her longtime boyfriend from whom she had obtained a protection order last spring was arrested within hours of the crime and charged with murder.

Mark Stephenson, 47, of Cygnet is being held without bond in the Wood County jail on a charge of murder. Wood County Prosecutor Ray Fischer said the case could be presented to a grand jury as early as next week.

Sheriff's deputies arrested Stephenson in a wooded area east of I-75 about 2 1/2 hours after being called to his State Rt. 25 home on a report of a domestic dispute.

Ironically, 20 years ago, Stephenson's brother, Robert, shot and killed his former girlfriend and her mother before turning the gun on himself.

Robert Stephenson had waited for the two women to return to their Plain Township home west of Bowling Green May 30, 1984, then shot his ex-girlfriend in her car and killed her mother in front of the garage. Sheriff's deputies found his body along the driveway near the car.

Wednesday's homicide was the second this year in Wood County and the second involving domestic violence. William Ball, 35, of Bowling Green is to go on trial in January for the Feb. 29 murder of his live-in girlfriend, Michelle Descant, 24, at their home.

Those who work with domestic violence victims and their families were disturbed by the latest slaying, which came just a few days before the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month today.

"I just got off the phone with a victim's sister, who just kept saying, 'When is it going to stop? I'm so mad,'‚óŹ" said Rebecca Nichols Theis, victim advocate with the Transformation Project at the Women's Center at Bowling Green State University.

She said the latest homicide saddens her and angers many victims' families who would like to see harsher penalties for abusers.

"Many family members don't think they're taking it seriously enough, that they're not hard enough on these guys," she said.

Court documents and Wood County sheriff's records show a long trail of problems between Stephenson and Ms. Smith, who had lived together on and off for years and had a 13-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter together.

In April, Ms. Smith had obtained a temporary protection order for herself and her children, which Stephenson had violated on numerous occasions. Four counts of violating a protection order currently are pending against him in Bowling Green Municipal Court.

Stephenson also was scheduled to be sentenced in November for a felony count of domestic violence stemming from an incident in April in which he "grabbed his 14-year-old daughter by the hair, neck, and throat and pulled her into the house following a verbal dispute outside the residence."

The offense became a felony because Stephenson was convicted in 2002 in municipal court of misdemeanor domestic violence for an incident in which he grabbed Ms. Smith around the neck and pushed her to the ground.

In recent years, sheriff's deputies were called to the couple's Scotch Ridge Road home west of Pemberville repeatedly on domestic disputes that at times involved Ms. Smith and at other times involved their children.

Yesterday, Wood County Job and Family Services was granted temporary custody of the two teens during a hearing in Juvenile Court. Court Administrator Tim Brown said the agency was now exploring placement options for them.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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