Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murders of Ken Stahl and Carolyn Oppy-Stahl

The Plan

Stahl had been thinking about doing away with his wife for years and had even confided his desire to have her killed to one of his former lovers, Adriana Vasco. But after his recent surgery he felt a greater urgency to get the job done.

Adriana Vasco
Adriana Vasco

He had tried to recruit his electrician, Richard "Chris" Anaya, to murder his wife. Anaya was a former gang member who still wore his gang tattoos even though he had given up that life and dedicated himself to the Lord. One day while Anaya was working at the Stahls' condo, Ken Stahl came right out and asked him if he'd do the hit. Anaya was shocked. He advised Stahl to just get a divorce if that was how he felt about his wife and told the doctor that he would pray with him.

Ken Stahl and Adriana Vasco
Ken Stahl and Adriana Vasco

But Anaya did not dissuade Stahl from wanting his wife dead. It was always in Stahl's mind, a nagging desire he longed to fulfill. The solution to his problem eventually seemed to present itself through his former mistress, Adriana Vasco, a medical assistant he'd met at work at the National Pain Institute in Huntington Beach. They'd been lovers for a while but had moved on to other people. Still, they stayed in touch over the years, and he remained solicitous, giving her cash and cars. It was an unusual relationship. Adriana introduced him to Tony Satton, a man she was seeing. Satton, a surly 29-year-old with a Southern accent, worked as a maintenance man at her Anaheim apartment complex. Stahl explained his problem, and Satton offered to kill Carolyn for $30,000.

As Ken Stahl drove down the Ortega Highway on the night of November 20, 1999, he watched for the white Mazda in his rearview mirror, a car he had bought for Vasco. She and Tony Satton were in that car. The plan was in motion.

As Stahl approached the site they had selected for the murder, he braked and pulled over to the side of the road near a call box. Carolyn must have asked him why he was stopping. Stahl took the car out of gear but kept the motor running. In the meantime the white Mazda sped down the road, passed them, and kept going. At a prearranged spot farther up the road, the Mazda would make a u-turn and head back toward Stahl's car. That was the plan.

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