Jurors on Friday began deliberating the fate of a 27-year-old Burbank man accused of fatally stabbing his on-and-off girlfriend 19 times in her neck.
DNA traces on coffee cups and underneath the victim’s fingernails, a series of text messages and missing sweatshirt and cellphone are some of the evidence that prosecutor Sharon Ransom said indicates Stephen Joanou Jr. killed Patrina “Trina” Sabella.
“All the evidence points to one person — Stephen Joanou,” she told jurors during her closing arguments in a Van Nuys courtroom.
Sabella was found early March 20, 2012, lying in a pool of her own blood behind a shed in South Weddington Park in Studio City.
That night, witnesses reportedly heard a woman’s scream coming from the park, but they thought it was part of a film shoot. Another witness reportedly heard Sabella call out Joanou’s name.
Prosecutors allege that Joanou had been seen with Sabella, 32, buying coffee at a 7-Eleven in Hollywood, hours before she was found dead.
Two coffee cups with the pair’s DNA were later discovered inside Sabella’s car, which was found at the park.
A series of text messages also showed the pair had planned to meet up that night.
But Joanou reportedly denied meeting Sabella that night.
Joanou's attorney Christopher Chaney didn’t dispute evidence showing that his client was with Sabella that night, but he said that doesn’t mean Joanou killed her.
“He is guilty of being with Trina up to a certain time of the night,” Chaney said.
Joanou, he said, is not violent, adding that the pair didn’t have any strife between them.
“It appears they cared for each other and wanted to be together that night,” Chaney said.
However, according to prosecutors, Joanou told investigators he hadn’t seen Sabella in months. He claimed she consistently called him.
Still, Chaney argued that prosecutors failed to provide a weapon or blood evidence connecting Joanou to the crime scene.
The weapon used to kill Sabella was never found, but prosecutors said a witness testified that he had gifted Joanou a knife.
The motive for killing Sabella may remain a mystery even after the case is completed, Ransom said.
“We might never know why,” she said.