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Man sentenced to 26 years to life in prison in fatal stabbing of girlfriend

A 27-year-old Burbank man was sentenced this week to 26 years to life in prison in the fatal stabbing of his on-and-off girlfriend, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

A jury in March found Stephen Todd Joanou Jr. guilty of first degree murder with an allegation that he used a sharp object to kill 32-year-old Patrina Sabella, according to a news release from prosecutors.

Sabella was found March 20, 2012 lying in a pool of blood behind a shed in South Weddington Park in Studio City. She had been stabbed 19 times in her upper body, prosecutors said.

Surveillance video showed Joanou and Sabella buying coffee at a 7-Eleven in Hollywood roughly three hours before she was found dead. Two coffee cups with traces of DNA from Joanou and Sabella were also found inside her car at the park.

Investigators also obtained text messages between the two discussing plans to meet up that night. The victim’s father, Michael Sabella, testified that about 10:30 or 11 p.m., his daughter said she was going to pick up Joanou, who did not have a car. He tried to persuade her not to, but she sneaked out of the house without saying goodbye, he testified.

Three hours later, Sabella got a call from police informing him what happened.

Through the trial, Joanou denied seeing Sabella that night. Joanou had returned home without any blood on his clothes and didn’t show any signs that he had been in a physical altercation, said his attorney Christopher Chaney. 

His client was also turning his life around by working in construction with his father. Joanou had also completed a drug rehabilitation program.

Prosecutors failed to provide a weapon or present blood evidence linking Joanou to the crime scene, Chaney said.

On Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Gregory Dohi also denied Joanou’s motion for a new trial.

-- Los Angeles Times staff

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