A recent verdict has been handed in from a jury declaring Joshua Stepp guilty of murder after the fatal stabbing 19-year-old Michael Avalos in Lindsay back in 2012.
On June 18, in Department 10 of the Tulare County Superior Court, Visalia Division, a jury convicted Stepp, age 30, of second-degree murder with the special allegation of using a deadly weapon.
A 2017 jury previously convicted Stepp of arson, but was unable to reach a unanimous decision on the charge of murder. Stepp possesses a 2008 strike for attempted carjacking with a knife.
In the early morning hours of September 14, 2012, Stepp was at his friend’s house in Lindsay when the victim, Michael Avalos, age 19, visited the house. Stepp believed Avalos had incriminating information against his friend, Strathmore gang member Eric Jimenez. Stepp proceeded to stab Avalos repeatedly.
Stepp’s friend, Nathan Hunt, age 28, assisted Stepp in putting Avalos’ body into Stepp’s car. Stepp then drove to an orchard outside Lindsay and set the car and the body on fire. Hunt was arrested later that day, while Stepp fled to Missouri. Law enforcement arrested Stepp on September 17, 2012, and extradited him back to Tulare County.
Hunt pleaded to voluntary manslaughter and other crimes in 2014 and is facing over 30 years in prison at sentencing on July 12.
In April of 2018, Eric Jimenez was convicted of second-degree murder in Avalos’ killing and is currently on death row for robbing, killing, and burning another man in 2012.
Sentencing is scheduled for July 24, in Superior Court where Stepp faces up to 42 years-to-life in prison.
The case was prosecuted by Supervising Deputy District Attorney Melissa Chabra and was investigated by Sergeant Steve Sanchez of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department and Criminal Investigator Jerry Hunzinger of the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigations.
Kern Valley State Prison officials investigate the homicide of an inmate
Officials at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP) are investigating the attack of an inmate that occurred three months ago as a homicide.
On March 18, just after 8:30 p.m., inmate Erik Morales attacked inmate Ryan Galindo while in their assigned cell. Officers responded to the cell and gave orders for Morales to stop. Morales complied without the use of force.
Galindo suffered severe head trauma as a result of the attack, and was immediately taken to the prison’s Triage and Treatment area and then transported to an outside hospital for a higher level of care. He remained in a local hospital until transported to a long-term care facility. On Tuesday, June 18 at 9:33 a.m., Galindo was pronounced dead by a physician at the long-term care facility.
Galindo, 40, was received from Fresno County on May 14, 2015, to serve a six-year sentence for being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm.
Morales, 40, was received from Los Angeles County on June 9, 2005, to serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole for first-degree murder.
Prison officials are treating this incident as a homicide as they continue their investigation.