Bay Area father killed Kansas City man after encounter with bar 24 years ago, investigators say

According to Kansas City investigators, on January 17, 1998, Timothy Stephenson was having a drink at the Dixie Belle gay bar on Main Street when he met 26-year-old Randal “Randy” Oliphant. When police questioned Stephenson at the time, he allegedly told them he had brought an “unknown man” home and then dropped the man off at another bar afterwards. Stephenson claimed he never saw the man again.

Oliphant was reported missing by his mother. In March 1998, two fishermen found Oliphant’s badly decomposed body in rural Warsaw, Missouri; an autopsy concluded that he had been killed with a shotgun. A card for the Dixie Belle in Oliphant’s pants led investigators to speak with the bartender, who identified Stephenson as the last person seen with the victim.

Although police looked into Stephenson, more than 20 years passed before they had enough evidence for an arrest warrant. Around this time, Stephenson, who was married to a Kansas City woman, separated and moved to the Bay Area. There he married a doctor, and the couple had twin daughters.

According to the Missouri Highway Patrol’s probable cause warrant, in 2014 Stephenson confessed to her husband that he had murdered a man in Missouri. According to court documents, Stephenson explained how “he shot Oliphant, how Oliphant pleaded for his life, how Stephenson shot him again and killed him, and how Stephenson disposed of Oliphant’s body in Benton County, Missouri”. Investigators say as part of the cover-up, Stephenson then sold his Jeep; police have found the new owner and say parts of the vehicle’s carpet were missing.

In 2020, Stephenson’s husband filed for divorce in Contra Costa County and sought a restraining order over allegations of domestic violence. Court documents don’t say whether the husband notified police, but the investigation resumed, and in 2021 the Missouri State Highway Patrol lab took another look at the DNA available in the case.

In April 2021, investigators say the husband, who was told by police, met Stephenson. According to that taped meeting, Stephenson allegedly said he only pretended to kill Oliphant to “scare” her husband, but then accused an ex-lover of killing the man.

In December, prosecutors filed second-degree murder charges against Stephenson, now 48, who was taken into custody in California. He was recently released on $250,000 bond to a relative’s home in Benton County. The preliminary hearing is scheduled for August 12; he faces 10 to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Stephenson’s lawyer, Stacy Shaw, defended her client before the Kansas City Starcalling him “all Starburst and sprinkles” and “the loveliest person I’ve met in a long time”.

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