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Romney criticizes Obama on economy and partisanship

November 02, 2012

For the next five hours, the man raped and choked her, twice to the point she lost consciousness. She was certain she would die. She grieved she was too young, only 22, and that her murder would destroy her mother.

She struggled against panic and fought with her wits, pretending to like her attacker, cajoling him and sympathizing with him. When he finally left at dawn, she kissed him goodbye — then ran for help.

After leaving Steward, Dean Carter went on a killing rampage, strangling, raping and stacking bodies in closets. Police say he murdered five women, from San Diego to Oakland, within 18 days. Steward's testimony helped prosecutors win two death sentences against Carter.

VOTER GUIDE: 2012 California Propositions

Twenty-eight years after the murders, Carter remains on death row, writing a blog and pressing his appeals. That he continues to live frustrates and angers families of some of his victims. They want to watch him die.

Steward, 50, sees it differently. She has endorsed the November ballot measure — Proposition 34 — to replace the death penalty with life without parole. She said she is tired of dreading the call that will inform her of the day he's to receive his lethal injection, and she's weary of seeing people who worked for his execution die before him.

She has long opposed the death penalty but kept her views to herself during Carter's murder trials. The wait for Carter's execution — and with no immediate end in sight for the appeal process — has merely reinforced her sentiments. She said she wants to move on.

But the wishes of Carter's other victims tug at her. During one of the murder trials, George Cullins, father of one of the murder victims, asked Steward for a favor. Cullins was approaching 70 and knew that Carter's appeals would drag on for decades.

Would she take his place at Carter's execution if he could not be there?

Steward was stunned and did not know how to respond.

"I will try," she said.


After her assault, which took place in Ventura on March 29, 1984, Steward started sleeping on her living room floor. She kept a loaded gun under her pillow — even after Carter was arrested during a traffic stop a month later with his victims' belongings in his car.

Prosecutors decided to try him first for her rape and then call her to testify against him in the murder trials, scheduled for Los Angeles and San Diego.

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