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Published: Tuesday, 4/2/2002

Oregon pair struggle with son's charge in killing

BY ROBIN ERB
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Stephen Everett, 18, is shackled and wearing a bullet-proof vest as he ap- pears in Oregon Municipal Court on charges that he killed Rhonda Douglas. Stephen Everett, 18, is shackled and wearing a bullet-proof vest as he ap- pears in Oregon Municipal Court on charges that he killed Rhonda Douglas.
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In a cozy living room in Oregon yesterday, Judie Brown, a waitress and mother of two, wept as her oldest son's image - handcuffed in a bullet-proof vest - flashed across the afternoon news.

Stephen Everett, 18, just weeks out of a youth lockup, was charged with beating, strangling, and stabbing a 46-year-old neighbor - a woman he barely knew. If convicted, he could face the death penalty, police said.

Rhonda Douglas, who was employed by the Maumee Bay Resort & Conference Center, was found in her home late Friday after a neighbor noticed her door was unlocked. Police said Mr. Everett has cooperated with the investigation and implicated himself in the murder.

Though his statements to police were “very emotional,” the teenager gave no reason for the murder, Oregon police Lt. Hank Everitt said.

Mr. Everett was arraigned in Oregon Municipal Court yesterday on an aggravated murder charge and was ordered held in the Lucas County jail in lieu of a $250,000 bond.

“We're in a nightmare,” said Mrs. Brown, Mr. Everett's mother, as she buried her face in her palms. “No matter what, I'll stand by my son. No matter what. He's my son.”

Police Chief Tom Gulch said his department may ask Lucas County prosecutors to pursue the death penalty if Mr. Everett is convicted. “All the elements are there,” he said.

Yesterday, police caution tape wrapped Ms. Douglas' tiny house less than a block away from Mr. Everett's Momany Street home. Outside, a plywood sign and wooden cross stood in the front yard bearing the neatly printed words: “We will love you. We will miss you.”

Ms. Douglas' family lives out of town and was expected to travel to the area shortly to make funeral arrangements.

Down the street, Mr. Everett's parents sought to understand how their son, an Owens Community College student pursuing a welding career, could stand accused of such a monstrous act.

Mr. Everett, who attended Clay High School, has experienced his share of problems: stealing a car, burglary, assault, and drugs, according to court records. He recently was released from the Lucas County Youth Treatment Center, where his mother and stepfather said he had tried to break a cocaine habit.

Mrs. Brown said she and Steve Brown, Mr. Everett's stepfather, had gone through the court process with their son, attending court hearings and drug rehabilitation meetings.

“Things had been going so well,” she said. “It makes no sense.”

Mr. Brown, a construction worker, shook his head. “I hope justice is served - the guilty party should be found guilty, no matter who it is,” he said. “This was a brutal killing, and no one can condone that.

“Our hearts go out to this woman and her family.”

Mrs. Brown agreed: “If [my son] didn't do it, he will be home soon. That woman - she'll never come home.”



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