Crime, Fire + Courts

Two men convicted of Dunnigan murder attempt

By From page A3 | January 09, 2014

Two Kern County men face spending the rest of their lives in prison following their convictions on attempted murder and other charges, according to the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office.

Separate juries found Danny Joe Stearman of Shafter and David Earl Bristow of Bakersfield guilty of the murder attempt, conspiracy to commit murder, assault with a firearm and assault with a deadly weapon after a monthlong joint trial in Yolo Superior Court.

Bristow, 55, was convicted on Friday, while the 65-year-old Stearman’s conviction was handed down Monday, District Attorney Jeff Reisig said in a news release. Bristow, described by prosecutors as a “hired hit man,” also was found to have personally used a firearm during the crime, while Stearman was cleared of multiple weapon enhancements.

Both men were accused of ambushing the victim — the ex-husband of Stearman’s niece — on Oct. 1, 2012, in Dunnigan while the victim was en route to work in Arbuckle.

“After exiting his car, the victim was shot in the back of the head, stabbed, sliced in the face, and run down with his own vehicle,” the news release said. “The defendants then left the victim on the side of the road to die.”

The victim survived, however, after phoning a co-worker while lying gravely injured along County Line Road. Prosecutors say he immediately named Stearman as one of his attackers, while Bristow was identified via cell phone records.

Reisig lauded the jurors and the investigators in the case, as well as the victim, who spent multiple days testifying on the witness stand.

“The courage of the victim in this case is amazing,” he said. “Not only did he survive a brutal attempt to take his life, but he then had the strength to confront his attackers in open court and testify about their failed attempt to kill him. Because of his perseverance, these violent men should spend the rest of their life in prison.”

Defense attorney Steven Sabbadini, who represented Stearman, said while he was disappointed with the trial’s outcome, “the jury’s finding of ‘not true’ on seven of the weapon enhancements suggest that they believed that Mr. Stearman’s role in actually attacking the alleged victim was minimal,” he said in an email.

“This was a difficult case, but we believe that we exposed serious credibility issues with non-law enforcement prosecution witnesses, and that there was certainly a reasonable doubt as to Mr. Stearman’s culpability,” Sabbadini added.

Bristow’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Richard Van Zandt, declined to comment on the verdicts Tuesday.

Stearman is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 14 by Judge Stephen Mock. Bristow’s sentencing date has not yet been set.

Lauren Keene

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