ID Go: An argument about access to a disputed road puts two Lompico, California men at each other’s throats. Things progress from intimidation and property damage to a backhoe attack and, finally, one of the most shocking murders the area has ever seen. -Bonfire of Blood, Fear Thy Neighbor (S3, E9)
Coast Guard veteran Walter Stephens shot and killed Bob Hall in Lompico, California on November 20, 1998. After killing Bob, Walt burned and attempted to hide his body in a bonfire on his property. Bob’s co-workers grew concerned when Bob didn’t show up for his retirement party at work. They called the police and asked them to do a welfare check on Bob. In the course of the investigation, police learned from family members that if anything happened to Bob, they needed to talk to his neighbor Walter Stephens. Bob and Walter had been in a long standing neighborhood feud with one another over a property issue. When police went to visit Walter at his home, they found him tending a large fire. They questioned Walter about Bob’s disappearance but he denied having any knowledge or information useful to the missing persons investigation. Upon closer examination of the bonfire, the police observed what appeared to be human remains in the fire. Walter admitted to killing Bob and he was arrested.
Fellow neighbors always thought it would be the other way around, that Bob would kill Walter. Some believe Walter finally snapped. Bob’s family believed it was first degree murder. Facing a possible death sentence, Walter pleaded self-defense but the prosecutors believed otherwise after the forensic evidence was examined. Walter said he thought Bob had a weapon when he approached him late one night on his property but his gun told another story. Walter pistol whipped Bob with his gun and then shot him while he was helpless and down on the ground. Prosecutors argued it wasn’t self-defense, it was straight up murder. They believed Walter started that confrontation with Bob that night with the intent to kill. Walter Stephens was found guilty and sentenced to 40 years to life in prison for second degree murder. He got 14 years for the murder and another 25 years for use of weapon. Bob’s bones were burned and mostly disintegrated and his body was not recognizable. Detectives believe that had the police not discovered Bob’s remains in the fire, Walter Stephens may have got away with it.
Source: ‘Bonfire of Blood’ Fear Thy Neighbor
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Bob Hall v Walter Stephens | Superior Court of California (1998)
Missing Man’s Body Found in Brushfire
Man held as suspect in neighbor’s murder
Stephens v. Tilton | United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit (Jul 11, 2007)
Bonfire of Blood | Fear Thy Neighbor | Investigation Discovery (S3, E9)