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Man gets 26 years to life for stabbing girlfriend 19 times in neck

Burbank man gets 26 years to life for fatally stabbing girlfriend 19 times in the neck

A Burbank man was sentenced to 26 years to life in state prison Wednesday after he was convicted of fatally stabbing his on-and-off girlfriend 19 times in the neck.

Stephen Joanou Jr., 27, was convicted of first-degree murder in March in the death of Patrina “Trina” Sabella, who was found in a pool of blood behind a shed in South Weddington Park in Studio City on March 20, 2012. She was 32.

Family members in court Wednesday remembered Sabella as a “beautiful and gentle soul” who spoiled her now 9-year-old daughter, Leah, the Burbank Leader reported.

Leah was adopted at birth by her paternal grandparents, but Sabella – as well as Joanou – played a role in her life, according to the girl’s adopted mother, Karen Myers. 

Both Sabella and Joanou reportedly struggled with drug use.

“The details of your actions still haunt the minds of us all,” Myers said to Joanou in court. “The shock and disbelief she must have felt knowing it was you, someone she loved and trusted.”

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Gregory Dohi denied defense attorney Christopher Chaney’s motion for a new trial on Wednesday, concluding it was "not reasonable" to believe that new evidence allegedly contradicting a homeless man's testimony would have changed the outcome.

The judge also denied Chaney’s motion to reduce the charge from first-degree to second-degree murder.

“The facts here don’t justify a reduction of the offense,” Dohi said.

Surveillance video reportedly showed Joanou and Sabella buying coffee at a 7-Eleven in Hollywood hours before she was found dead. Two coffee cups with traces of DNA from Joanou and Sabella were discovered inside her car at the park where she was found dead.

Investigators also collected text messages that the pair had sent each other that night discussing plans to meet up.

Alene Tchekmedyian is a Times Community News staff writer.

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