Steven David Catlin – The Kern County Murders
Adopted as an infant, during 1944, by Glenn and Martha Catlin, of Kern County, California, Steven David Catlin moved to Bakersfield with his new parents in the early 1950’s. Dropping out of high school, he showed no interest in honest work and was arrested on forgery charges at age nineteen, serving nine months in a California Youth Authority camp.
Catlin’s first marriage was stormy and violent, domestic problems exacerbated by his abuse of drugs. In 1966, he acquired a second wife without divorcing the first, employing a pseudonym on the marriage license.
A few months after the second, bogus wedding, he was picked up for stealing a credit card at the gas station where he worked. The judge called Steven David Catlin an addict and packed him off to the state prison at Chino, where he spent the next three years.
Wives and More Wives
Upon release, Steven David Catlin divorced his first wife and legally remarried his second, using his real name, but the relationship was already doomed. The couple separated after ten months, and Catlin was married a third time, divorcing that wife eight months later. A fourth wife, Joyce, was acquired in short order, but she would prove less fortunate than her predecessor in escaping from a dead-end marriage.
Steven David Catlin’s fascination with cars led to a job with the pit crew of racer Glendon Emery, based in Fresno, California. Infatuated with Emery’s step-daughter, Catlin began to court her while still married to Joyce.
In April 1976, Joyce Catlin was admitted to Bakersfield’s Mercy Hospital with a severe case of “flu.” She seemed to improve, then took a sudden turn for the worse and died, of “pneumonia,” on May 6th. Husband Steven David Catlin ordered her body cremated without delay.
Death Arrives Often Around Steven David Catlin
A year later, in May 1977, Steven married his fifth wife, Kaye, and moved to Fresno, finding employment at a local garage. Quick promotions placed him in charge of forty employees, but Steven David Catlin had expensive tastes and cash was always short.
On October 28, 1980, his adoptive father died suddenly, the fluid in his lungs attributed to pre-existing cancer. Once again, the body was swiftly cremated on orders from Steven Catlin.
In 1981, Catlin’s employers at the Fresno garage noticed a sudden rash of missing auto parts. A routine background check on various employee’s turned up Steven’s unreported record, and he was forced to resign, though no charges were filed. Financially, the strain began to mount.
On February 17, 1984, Kaye Catlin suddenly fell ill while visiting Las Vegas with her mother. Returning to Fresno, she was hospitalized with fluid in her lungs. Physicians were still trying to diagnose her illness when she died on March 14th.
Time For A New Wife
Steven David Catlin, meanwhile, had acquired another fiancee, encountered on a visit to the hospital. His grief was tempered by her love, and by the $57,000 he received from life insurance payments.
Back in Bakersfield, his third ex-wife had followed Catlin’s eerie run of luck, and she approached the local sheriff with her dire suspicions. Joyce Catlin had been cremated after death, but Mercy Hospital still retained certain tissue samples, and these were submitted for analysis in November 1984.
A few days later, on December 8, Catlin’s mother collapsed and died, from “a stroke” shortly after a visit by Steve and his latest girlfriend. Steven ordered the body cremated, but disposal was postponed until an autopsy could be performed.
The noose was closing rapidly on Steven David Catlin, now. Analysis of tissue samples from his mother and his two late wives revealed that all had suffered poisoning from Paraquat, an herbicide so lethal that its use was banned in the United States.
A bottle of the stuff, complete with Catlin’s fingerprints, was found in his garage.
Game Over For Steven David Catlin
Indicted shortly after marrying his sixth, and final, wife, the killer went to trial at Monterey, in May of 1986. He was convicted on a single murder count, for killing Kaye, and he drew a term of life imprisonment. In Bakersfield, where other charges waited, prosecutors hoped to see him executed.
On June 1, 1990, a Kern County jury returned a guilty verdict on the murder counts pertaining to Joyce and Martha Catlin, and the jury agreed with the prosecution’s allegations of special circumstances (murder for financial gain, murder by poison, and multiple murder).
On June 6, 1990, the jury fixed Catlin’s penalty at death. The fact that Steven David Catlin had already been convicted for Glenna Kaye’s murder was not introduced until after the verdict.
The death penalty would stand!
Credit murderpedia / Michael Newton – An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers – Hunting Humans