Threats to Defendant Described by Witness : Hearing: Teacher says young men came onto school grounds seeking to accost Christian Steffens, accused in subsequent Dana Point slaying of Robert Elliott.
A Dana Hills High School teacher on Tuesday testified that a “scared” Christian Aaron Steffens had been threatened in her class by two or three young men just two days before a confrontation on a Dana Point beach that ended in the fatal shooting of Robert James Elliott.
Steffens of Laguna Niguel is accused of killing Elliott, 18, of Capistrano Beach on Sept. 8. His public defender is seeking to show that Steffens, then 16, shot Elliott in self-defense after Steffens was bullied and terrified by Elliott and a group of friends.
The prosecution, however, is arguing that Steffens was the “aggressor” in the Dana Strand shooting.
The case is before Juvenile Court Judge Robert B. Hutson, who will decide after the hearing whether Steffens should be tried as an adult or a juvenile. A decision to try Steffens as a juvenile would mean that he could get a lesser sentence if convicted.
In testimony Tuesday, teacher Christa Jurgensen said that on Sept. 6, Steffens was among students in her Spanish class.
She said that Steffens asked for permission to leave class for a brief time and that when he returned “he looked scared.”
Jurgensen testified that Steffens told her: “There are some guys after me. They want to beat me up.”
The teacher said that after class ended, “Christian stayed in the room, and he hid in the corner. He said, ‘Shut the door. They’re after me. I don’t want them to see me or get me.’ ”
Jurgensen said that outside her classroom, which is in a portable building, she saw two or three young men, about 18 or 19 years old, who are not students at the high school. She said they walked to the door of her classroom and shouted obscenities and threats at Steffens.
“They called into the room and said, ‘Chris, we know you’re in there. We’re going to get you. . . . Just wait--we’re going to get you.’ ”
The teacher added: “I was still standing in the doorway, so they did not dare come in.”
Jurgensen said the group then left her classroom area, and she reported the incident to school authorities. She did not identify the men during her testimony, and no one else during the court proceedings indicated who the young men were.
But Marri Derby, public defender for Steffens, clearly indicated in her questioning that she believes that those who allegedly threatened Steffens were associated with Elliott.
Derby has contended that Elliott and his friends had a history of trying to scare Steffens.
The only other witness Tuesday was Caleb Cassidy, 17, of Capistrano Beach, who identified himself as a friend of Elliott.
Cassidy told the court that on Sept. 5, he witnessed a verbal dispute that grew into fistfight on the beach between Steffens and Elliott.
Cassidy testified that Steffens threw the first punch, that at the end of the fight Elliott chased Steffens down the beach and that Steffens escaped and ran to his home in Dana Point.