Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murders of Ken Stahl and Carolyn Oppy-Stahl

"I Didn't Want To Get In Too Deep"

On the night of the murders, a passing security guard, his attention drawn by the Dodge Stratus's persistent high beams, noticed the open passenger door and saw a foot sticking out. He stopped, discovered the bodies, and immediately called the police. Forensic technicians were summoned to examine the crime scene. They did not find any bullet casings, suggesting that the killer had used a revolver, which doesn't spit out casings like an automatic. They also noted that except for her left earring, Carolyn was still wearing all her jewelrya necklace, a bracelet, an earring, and a wristwatch all of them gold with diamonds, which seemed to indicate that robbery was not a motive for this crime. One of her red pumps was found near the rear of the car on the passenger side along with a trail of blood. The technicians surmised that she had gotten out of the car after the attack started, then returned to the passenger seat before she died.

Stahl's car after the murders
Stahl's car after the murders

The police found Ken Stahl's pager and called the numbers of all the people who had paged Stahl the day he died. One number belonged to Adriana Vasco. Detective James McDonald of the Orange County Sheriff's Department spoke with Vasco and asked her why she had called Stahl. She explained that he was an old friend who was getting her computer fixed for her. She said she had called to find out how the computer repairs were coming along. McDonald asked her if she'd been having an affair with Stahl, and she said no. McDonald had further questions for her so he arranged to interview her in person.

Orange County Sheriff's Department patch
Orange County Sheriff's Department patch

On February 29, 2000, Detective McDonald and Detective Joe Homs interviewed Vasco at her home. She said that Stahl had confided to her that he was not happy in his marriage. According to Vasco, Ken Stahl was depressed and had talked about suicide. She said that he had given her money in the past and had bought her a car when her old one broke down. Reluctantly she admitted that she and Stahl had had an affair but claimed it was short-lived. "I stopped it because I didn't want to get hurt," she told the detectives. "I didn't want to get in too deep and get hurt." She portrayed herself as someone who had been hurtsometimes physicallyby many of the men in her life.

Detective Brian Heaney
Detective Brian Heaney

In the fall of 2000, two new detectives were assigned to the Stahl case, Brian Heaney and Phil Villalobos. They took a careful look at the phone numbers stored in Stahl's cell phone and discovered that he had called Adriana Vasco several times on the day of the murders. The detectives called her in for another talk, but she proved to be a "tough cookie," according to Villalobos. According to author Michael Fleeman, the detectives had hoped that she would relate to Villalobos because of their "shared Hispanic ethnicity," but she wanted no part of him and preferred talking to Heaney.

Vasco told the detectives that she had stopped sleeping with Stahl by the fall of 1996, but that they had remained good friends, even after she became pregnant by her live-in boyfriend, Greg Stewart. Stahl would visit her and often left money for her.

Vasco's Mazda fit the description of a car that was seen making a u-turn on the Ortega Highway on the night of the murders, so the detectives considered Stewart a possible suspect. When they interviewed him, they asked him to play detective and tell them whom he would be investigating if he were on this case.

"Tony," he told them. He said that Tony was Vasco's current boyfriend.

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