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Man Convicted on 14 Counts in String of Robberies, Assaults

July 19, 1990|JANET RAE-DUPREE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Torrance man accused of committing a series of seven robberies and assaults in the South Bay was convicted Tuesday in five of the crimes.

Steven Thomas Jones, 27, was convicted on 14 felony counts by a Torrance Superior Court jury, which also found him not guilty on five other charges.

Jones could receive up to 50 years in state prison when he is sentenced Aug. 30 for the crimes, which occurred in late 1988 and early 1989, Deputy Dist. Atty. Julie Sulman said.

Sulman expressed disappointment that Jones was not convicted in all seven of the break-ins and attacks.

Although victims in the two crimes for which Jones was acquitted identified him as their attacker, Sulman said jurors told her that they wanted physical evidence--such as fingerprints found at the scene or stolen items located in Jones' apartment--to convict him.

Such evidence was presented in the five crimes of which he was found guilty.

Jones' defense attorney, Oksana Bihun, acknowledged to jurors that Jones had confessed to the final two robberies in the series, but he argued during the trial that police were using Jones to close other unsolved cases.

Jones, who served eight years in a Pennsylvania state prison for robbery and rape, was paroled to his mother's home in Torrance a few months before the first crime.

Jurors convicted Jones on five counts of residential robbery involving adult victims, one count of robbery involving a child, four counts of assault, one of forcible oral copulation, one of forcible rape and two counts of possession of a gun by a convicted felon.

They acquitted him of attempted first-degree murder, one count each of robbery and attempted robbery, and two counts of assault.

During the trial, Sulman told jurors that the series of crimes began in Torrance on Oct. 28, 1988, when Mary Ann Knopp was viciously beaten by a man posing as a water company salesman.

Knopp identified Jones, but no physical evidence linked him to the crime and jurors did not convict him.

The second attack occurred Jan. 9, 1989, when a 22-year-old Manhattan Beach woman was beaten, raped and robbed in her family's home. The attacker ransacked the house before smashing a typewriter into the woman's face.

Although Jones was acquitted of trying to murder the woman, he was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, rape, oral copulation and robbery.

The third crime occurred the next day, Sulman said, when a Gardena woman was attacked by a man claiming to be an insurance salesman. During the attack, the woman's 5-year-old son startled the man, who fled with a necklace he had yanked from her neck.

Jurors acquitted Jones of attempted robbery and assault in that case.

Sulman said the crime spree continued in March, 1989, when a robber pretending to be a water salesman tricked a housekeeper into letting him into a Torrance home, where he beat and tied up the woman, tied up the 5-year-old girl she was caring for and ransacked the house.

Jones was convicted on all charges in that case.

A month later, Jones struck again when he followed a 71-year-old woman into her Calle Mayor home in Torrance, tied her up and ransacked her house. He was also convicted on all charges in that case.

Jones was arrested on May 18, 1989, as he fled from the scene of the final two robberies, involving an elderly Manhattan Beach woman and her elderly male neighbor. Jones was convicted of beating the woman with a gun and robbing her, and of assaulting the man and firing a gunshot at him.

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