Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murders of Ken Stahl and Carolyn Oppy-Stahl

"Keep Your Hands Where I Can See Them"

Ken Stahl sat behind the wheel, waiting, his seat beat still fastened. He could see headlights coming toward him. The white Mazda slowed down and pulled alongside his car. Adriana Vasco was driving, her face barely lit by the dashboard lights. The passenger door flew open, and Tony Satton jumped out and leapt over the hood of Vasco's car, a .38 revolver clenched in his hand.

Ken Stahl and Adriana Vasco
Ken Stahl and Adriana Vasco

Stahl's heart must have been racing. The moment had finally come. It was happening.

Ken Stahl
Ken Stahl

Satton rushed to the driver's door. The window was open. Stahl probably expected Satton to reach inside and empty his entire load into Carolyn, but to his surprise Satton started firing at both of them. One slug hit Ken Stahl behind his ear, went through his skull, and exited through his eye, shattering his eyeglasses. The fatal shot pierced his chest and shredded his aorta.

Carolyn Oppy-Stahl, the intended target, had been wounded but was still alive, and the assassin's gun was now empty. Frantic and hysterical, Carolyn got out of her car and scrambled to the rear fender, leaving a trail of blood behind her.

According to author Michael Fleeman, the Mazda started rolling forward; Vasco's foot had slipped off the brake. Satton angrily accused her of trying to escape and threatened to shoot her if she tried to abandon him. She would later claim that she had looked away when the shooting started and did not see the killings but did hear the gunshots. Sitting behind the wheel of her car, she was just a few feet away from the Stahls' car.

Satton reloaded his gun and went after Carolyn. She must have seen him coming, and desperate to find shelter, she dove back into the passenger seat. She was half in, her legs still outside the car, when Satton resumed firing, finishing the job he'd been hired to do. An autopsy would later reveal that she had been shot at least 8 times.

Adriana Vasco would later claim that she had begged Stahl to call off the hit and had tried unsuccessfully to persuade Satton not to do it. She also said that she was terrified of Satton, that he had threatened to harm her two children if she got in his way, and that she had no doubt that he would do so. But the erratic Satton had veered from the plan and killed Ken Stahl, too, the man who had hired him and paid him a lot of money, the man who had also been so good to Vasco for so many years.

Satton got back into Vasco's car and shouted, "Come on, let's go!" She floored the accelerator and sped off. As they made their escape, she asked him why he had killed Ken Stahl. Satton told her that Stahl "didn't follow instructions." Satton had told the doctor to "always keep your hands where I can see them," and he claimed that Stahl hadn't done that. But Vasco suspected that Satton didn't want to leave a witness behind.

As they headed back to their apartment complex in Anaheim, Vasco deliberately drove fast, hoping that a highway patrolman would pull them over for speeding and save her from this madman. But that didn't happen.

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