Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murders of Ken Stahl and Carolyn Oppy-Stahl

"A Fairly Large Revolver"

Adriana Vasco agreed to take a voice-stress analysis test administered by Officer Paul Beckman at the Costa Mesa Police Station. Some consider this test a viable alternative to the standard polygraph for uncovering deception, but many police departments have found it to be less reliable. When Vasco was asked if she had known that someone had been planning to kill Ken and Carolyn, the machine showed considerable stress in her voice, indicating that she was probably lying.

Costa Mesa Police patch
Costa Mesa Police patch

In a follow-up interview, Heaney and Villalobos pressed her for more information about Tony and his possible involvement with the murders. She claimed repeatedly that she didn't know anything, but in the course of the interview she admitted that Tony and Ken Stahl had known one another. The detectives were convinced that she knew more than she was saying. They feared that she would warn Tony if they let her go, and that he would flee. They conferred with their supervisor, Sergeant Bob Blackburn, and decided to arrest her on outstanding traffic warrants in Orange and Los Angeles Counties.

While Adriana was in jail, the police interviewed some of her friends, family, and co-workers and discovered that she and Carolyn Oppy-Stahl weren't strangers. Nancy Stewart, Greg Stewart's mother and the grandmother of Adriana's daughter, told detectives that she had answered the phone one morning at Adriana's apartment. An irate Carolyn, mistaking Nancy Stewart for Adriana, identified herself and warned her to stay away from her husband.

James Stewart, Nancy's husband, told the police that Adriana had told him that she had bought "a fairly large revolver" for Tony. The elder Stewart, a hunter and skeet shooter who owned several firearms, had asked Adriana to drive him to a gun shop in Fountain Valley, Calif., to pick up a rifle he had won in a raffle. While they were in the shop, Adriana pointed to a handgun in a display case and said it was similar to the one she had purchased. Stewart said the gun she showed him was probably a Taurus. Police ballistics experts had theorized that the murder weapon could have been a Taurus revolver. The police also learned that she had applied to buy an assault rifle two months before the murders but cancelled the order after three days.

Similar Taurus revolver
Similar Taurus revolver

The police obtained a warrant to search a storage unit Vasco rented in Anaheim. Among the items they found were old phone bills, and one of them showed that she had placed several calls to a number with the area code 252the Greenville, North Carolina, areain the days after she had first been contacted by the police. Investigators also found photographs of Adriana hugging a dark-haired young man with a goatee. Police wondered if this could be the elusive Tony Satton.

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