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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    2nd suspect on trial in taxi driver’s slaying in Denton


    A second man accused of brutally stabbing a taxi driver, robbing him and then setting him on fire near Alliance Airport in July 2009 goes on trial Monday in Denton.

    Jury selection begins Monday morning in the capital murder trial of William Kirk Stephens, 24, of Haslet who remained in the Denton County Jail on Sunday.

    Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty in the attack that left Hooshang Vatanpour dead in a vacant Denton County field.

    If convicted, Stephens will receive an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole.

    “”It’s very, very disappointing that the DA is not seeking the death penalty,”” said Lida Vatanpour, Vatanpour’s daughter, on Sunday. “”I’ve thought all along that if 12 people convicted him, the jury should decide if he should receive a death penalty, not the DA’s office.””

    Lida Vatanpour re-emphasized that her motive isn’t revenge, but says her father’s death was a brutal capital murder offense.

    Denton County District Attorney Paul Johnson is a death-penalty supporter and has a committee that recommends punishment in potential death-penalty cases, said Jamie Beck, aDenton County assistant district attorney who acts as spokeswoman for the DA, in a November interview with the Star-Telegram.

    Beck said that in the appropriate case prosecutors would seek it.

    In November, a Denton County jury needed just 20 minutes to convict Noah Whitehead, 25, of Roanoke, of capital murder in the case. He received an automatic life sentence.

    According to testimony in the Whitehead trial, Vatanpour, 56, who worked 12- to- 14-hour days to support his family, was lured by Whitehead and Stephens to a field near Alliance Airport where his throat was cut, he was stabbed seven times, and then his body was set on fire.

    Vatanpour had picked up the defendants near a Dallas bus station and agreed to take them to Wichita Falls, according to Freedom Cab company records.

    Whitehead told a sheriff’s investigator that he stabbed Vatanpour twice in the heart and hit him once with a beer bottle and several times with his fist, but he would not admit to cutting his throat or to the other stab wounds.

    Whitehead said the latter was Stephens’ doing.

    A third co-defendant, Mariesha Ohlfs, 33, of Argyle, has been charged with aggravated robbery and is awaiting trial. Investigators said she brought a can of gasoline to the field at the men’s request.

    Vatanpour, a former Iranian air force helicopter pilot, moved his family to Texas seven years ago to escape religious persecution as he pursued his Baha’i faith.

    More than 4,000 people attended Vatanpour’s funeral.

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