Strangler Gets Life Sentence in Woman’s Death

Times Staff Writer

A Hollywood man was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole Friday for strangling a Studio City woman and dumping her body in a back-yard hot tub.

Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Alan B. Haber sentenced Stephen Vulpis, 30, to the life term, which a jury had recommended in June instead of the death penalty.

The same jury convicted Vulpis of killing Heidi Kaplan Scarbrough, 34, on May 7, 1986, in a struggle that resulted after she discovered him burglarizing her home.

Vulpis is to begin serving the life sentence after he finishes a 32-year sentence that Haber also imposed Friday for kidnaping, burglary, robbery and attempted robbery in six unrelated crimes for which he was also convicted.


Vulpis, who filed a notice of appeal at the end of the sentencing, told the court that he did not kill Scarbrough.

“One day, a lot of people are going to owe me an apology,” Vulpis said. According to a county probation report, Vulpis has said the victim’s husband should be a suspect in the killing.

The husband was quoted in the probation report as saying he hopes that Vulpis will suffer for the rest of his life in prison. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about it,” he said, according to the report.

“It should go without saying that Mrs. Scarbrough did not deserve to die,” Haber said. Referring to Vulpis, the judge said, “There was no need to do what he did.”


Vulpis was arrested on suspicion of robbery nine days after the murder. He implicated himself in the killing during conversations with detectives and fellow jail inmates, who later testified against him at his trial.

Vulpis told police details of the crime that prosecutors said only the killer could know. He later maintained that his confession was coerced by police, but his lawyers were unsuccessful in seeking to have it ruled inadmissible.

The sentencing took place amid unusually high security. Six deputies guarded the courtroom, one of them briefly entering with a shotgun raised in the air. Vulpis’ cellmate had told authorities of an escape plot in which Vulpis’ girlfriend purportedly was to pass him a gun during the proceedings, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

No escape was attempted.