Suspect to stand trial for double-murder in Morro Bay

April 14, 2022

Stephen Deflaun


Nearly 21 years after two people were killed at Morro Strand State Beach in San Luis Obispo County, a man who had long been deem mentally incompetent may soon stand trial for the crime. [Tribune]

In July 2001, Stephen Deflaun, now 63, allegedly murdered an 11-year-old boy and his uncle following an argument over a campsite at the beach located in north Morro Bay. Deflaun allegedly shot and killed the boy and man before firing at a park ranger.

Deflaun was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. For three years after the double-homicide, he failed every competency hearing.

Then, in July 2004, a judge ordered Deflaun to remain at Atascadero State Hospital (ASH) or another mental health institution indefinitely until he was deemed competent.

During a 2004 court hearing, then-ASH forensic psychologist Allan Roske said Deflaun would likely never be able to stand trial. At the time, Deflaun had delusions that made him believe conspirators could hear his thoughts as they plotted to kill him. Deflaun did not think he had a mental illness, which is a common symptom of the neurological condition Anosognosia, Roske said.

After being ruled incompetent, Deflaun entered a conservatorship with SLO County. Deflaun currently remains in the conservatorship.

However, in December 2021, a judge ruled Deflaun was competent to stand trial. On Wednesday, a judge scheduled a preliminary hearing in the case for next month

DeFlaun is currently in the San Luis Obispo County Jail, where he has been held since Dec. 8, according to the county sheriff’s office website.

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Yes possibly he gave up on the crazy act and wants a new location to live.He has lived a very posh way of life since 2001 at ASH , He knows he will go to a very relaxed prison setting where no one will attempt to kill him for killing a little boy .With the current prison parole board decisions on early release especially for older inmates he has a better chance than being released from ASH after his trial .If he was to receive the usual sentence it would be 15 years to life either concurrent or consective …after 12.8 years he is eligible for a parole hearing on one or both sentences he will receive after his trial .In 3 more years he would be eligible for a parole hearing on both sentences no matter what .Yes he quite possibly has decided to get the trial out of the way , then only have to deal with the easy going parole board .. Plus the DA may be offering a plea to manslaughter charges due to the possibility that the killings were not premeditated and the killer will state he was in fear of his life during the argument at the camp ground

Very curious as to what inspired the change in competency ruling. Possible he was keeping up a ruse for that long and slipped up?!?

Almost certainly not a ruse. I guess there’s a chance, but more than 20 years it’s unlikely anyone can fake it that long. I remember when this happened and the circumstances definitely pointed to him not being connected to reality.

I’m neither a lawyer nor a psychologist, so take this for what it’s worth, but I suspect the goal was to get him to a point where he could participate in his own defense. Now that he has been deemed competent enough to do so, the legal process can go forward in deciding whether or not he meets the criteria for a by reason if insanity defense at the time he committed the crime. Did he know right from wrong or was he acting as a result of mental illness are a couple of the things they’ll need to determine

If he is found to be competent, then there will be a criminal trial. If not, well, I’m not exactly sure. You can’t just lock people away forever without due process and this is the best the system can do.

It’s an awful story all around. Two people are dead, one of them a child. Maybe it’s the result of an evil SoB or maybe it’s the result of a serious illness.

It’s possible this guy did this truly believing he was saving the universe. As absurd as that sounds, the human brain can misfire in a way that a human truly believes something as crazy as that person is a witch about to destroy the universe if you don’t act. Imagine if your brain made you think that makes sense. What would you do?