Judge Releases Man Charged in Father’s Death

A DC Superior Court judge granted a motion to release a defendant charged in his father’s death.

Stephon Darnell Williams is charged with voluntary manslaughter in the shooting of his 49-year-old father, Stephen Magruder, on Sept. 11, 2020. According to the prosecution, before the shooting, the two reportedly got into an argument over five dollars and there is evidence a physical altercation took place, D.C. Witness previously reported.

The 30-year-old defendant was initially charged with second-degree murder while armed, but during a preliminary hearing in November 2020, Judge Neal Kravitz ruled that the case only has enough evidence to go to trial on the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. During that hearing, defense attorney Jason Tulley emphasized Magruder’s longstanding history of violence, which includes 2017 convictions for assault and destruction of property. He also called upon an investigator with the Public Defender Service about her interviews with several relatives, who she said told her that Magruder had a vicious temper and beat his son.

Towards the conclusion of that hearing, Judge Kravitz decided to release the defendant from DC Jail and put him in the High Intensity Supervision Program.

Last August, Williams was arrested on misdemeanor theft and assault charges while on release. According to court documents, he allegedly walked into a Subway restaurant and unplugged the soda machine to plug up a television he was attempting to sell. When someone tried to stop him, Williams allegedly punched him in the face, fled the scene and returned to threaten him. As a result, Williams was re-arrested and sent back to DC Jail.

The following October, Tulley motioned for his client’s release. During the Oct. 21 hearing, Tulley argued that Williams’ loss of housing and addiction-related struggles contributed to the brief period of erratic behavior that got him re-arrested while on pretrial release. Tulley explained Williams has since reflected on his actions and actively engaged with mental health, drug treatment and career training programs. Tulley also laid out several options for where his client could go if released.

Tulley read a letter from the defendant reflecting on his motivation to see his family. In his letter, Williams did not request immediate release but instead asked for Judge Milton Lee to put him in a 28-day federal recovery program which would then transition into home detention at a relative’s house. 

“Even though he kept up with [his] pretrial officer in spring and summer, he was in and out of homeless shelters and homes. Mr. Williams would be the first to say his mind wasn’t in the right place,” Tulley said. “Reading this letter isn’t usual when the case is pending but at this point, this is the most important thing to him to get back to his family and convince the judge to stay sober and stay out of trouble.”

“Mr. Williams was out for about a year in this case and it sounds like he didn’t really have it easy during that time because there wasn’t anything firm with the living situation,” Judge Lee said. “So he did have a period of stability that got interrupted.”

The prosecution said the nature of his case, which is currently awaiting indictment, shows Williams to be dangerous. They said one witness claims that Williams shot his father with a gun Williams himself owned while his father had his hands in the air. Parties disagreed on if there was any evidence that Williams brought the gun with him to the house where the shooting took place.

Tulley also emphasized the apparently abusive dynamic between Williams’ father and the rest of the family. Judge Lee agreed with the defense’s point, saying there was a “backdrop” of conflict to this incident due to the “lengthy period of abuse not just by the decedent against Mr. Williams but also members of the family.” 

“At least to the extent Mr. Williams is aware of what happens with other family members, he’s aware of what occurs with [his father] in that context, makes his fear more reasonable because of his father’s conduct,” Lee said.

Although the defendant’s misdemeanor case is the subject of the re-release effort, Judge Lee emphasized that it is still his manslaughter case that ultimately controls the decision. He singled out the absence of concrete evidence for who owned the gun as well as the physical altercation that preceded the incident as the controlling factors in his decision.

Judge Lee agreed to do what the Williams requested in his letter, assigning him to 28 days in a drug treatment program before being released his godmother.

The next hearing is set to take place on Dec. 17.