Michael-Daniel Timothy Stepina, 38, of Albany, New York (above, left), has been sentenced to life in prison for the brutal murder of Timothy Way, 55 (above, right). Stepina had been hitchhiking in suburban Oregon when Way picked him up in his wife’s minvan. He not only offered him a ride, but also invited him back to his house (which he shared with his wife Deanna, although she was out of town at the time) for a shower and a meal.
Stepina testified that after his shower, Way gave him a foot massage and performed oral sex on him, followed by a nice meal of salmon and a salad. Way then drove Stepina to a rest stop where he dropped him off, with some toothpaste he’d given him, telling him he’d be safe for the night there.
You’d think since Way had treated him so well that Stepina would have been grateful, but instead he’d stolen a pair of scissors from Way’s bathroom, and when he dropped him off, he brutally assaulted him, kicking him and stomping on his body. He used the purloined scissors to fatally stab Way 66 times. He then used the toothpaste to draw a design on Way’s bare stomach, and covered his face with a piece of cloth.
According to court documents, “[Stepina] stopped stabbing [Way] only when the scissors broke, with the blades remaining in the victim’s” mouth.
After Way’s body was discovered at the rest stop, Stepina was spotted and arrested about a mile and a half away, covered in Way’s blood.
In court, Clackamas County Deputy District Attorney Sarah Dumont basically argued that Stepina’s actions could be blamed on his fragile masculinity. It seems he’d lost his tattoo artist job, his wife had left him, and he’d been living with his parents. Boo hoo. And to top it all off, Way gave him a blowjob and some money. That was reportedly the last straw for Stepina, as it left him feeling emasculated.
Dumont explained: “What he decided he was going to do was show Mr. Way that he was a man,” Dumont said. “The way he chose to do so was by planning and brutally murdering him.” Autopsy results indicated that Stepina first stabbed Way when his back was turned. That’ll show him!
The defense painted a different picture of Stepina, describing him as a Army veteran with heath problems including lethargy, compliance, mental dullness, and a “decreased instinct to run away” associated with a thyroid condition. Defense attorney Zack Lorts claimed that due to his compromised health, Stepina was vulnerable to Way’s “predatory sexual interest,” as the victim was six foot four and weighed almost 500 pounds.
The story took a surprising turn when Lorts told the court that two months before his murder, the police had been called to Way’s house. A homeless man, who claimed Way picked him up in Portland and offered him a meal at his home with the chance to do some laundry, had fled Way’s house wearing only a towel, telling police that he felt his life was in danger.
Way’s wife Deanna, who he’d been with for almost three decades, testified in court that her husband brought “down on their luck” men home all the time. She explained that her husband said he was “ministering” them, and he’d offer them a meal or the opportunity to shower or wash their clothes. He’d even hire some of them to do landscaping work for him. She attested that she did not believe that her husband was gay or sexually interested in these men.
Mrs. Way addressed Stepina in court:
“‘Til death do us part,’ I thought that wouldn’t be for a long, long time to come, but you, Michael Stepina, took all of that away, violently, suddenly, forever,” Deanna Way said Tuesday. “My husband died alone. He bled to death on the hard, cold ground.”
Main photos: Stepina, left [Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office], and Way, right [Oregon State Police]