Case # 15NF1464

Date: May 7, 2018


*The defendant was arrested 40 years after the crime when identified through DNA

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A man was sentenced to life in state prison on Friday for the 1974 cold case murder of a 30-year-old woman in her La Palma apartment.


Felony Charges


Larry Clark Stephens, 68, Santa Rosa

Found guilty by a jury on March 6, 2018, of:

  • One felony count of first degree murder

Life in state prison

Circumstances of the Case

  • On Dec. 11, 1974, 30-year-old Patricia Ross was alone in her apartment in La Palma.
  • After completing errands for her business, she returned home to get ready for a double date she was planning on attending later that evening. She was supposed to meet her date and another couple at the couple’s home in Huntington Beach that evening.
  • The defendant and Ross did not know each other prior to the crime.
  • Stephens, then 24 years old, is accused of entering Ross’ apartment and strangling the victim in her bedroom.
  • The victim’s friend went to her apartment after she had not shown up and found Ross naked in her bedroom with her body lying face down.
  • The friend contacted the La Palma Police Department (LPPD), who investigated this case and also discovered the victim’s small dog, unharmed, inside of a drawer in her bedroom. Forensic evidence, including blood, was collected at the scene.
  • In 2008, LPPD began a joint investigation with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) and Orange County Cold Case Homicide Task Force (OCHTF).
  • In March 2015, Stephens was arrested on charges of domestic violence in Santa Rosa and submitted a DNA sample.
  • The DNA sample the defendant provided for the Santa Rosa Police Department matched the DNA profile collected from the murder scene 40 years prior.

At the sentencing on Friday, the victim’s brother John made an emotional impact statement to the court pursuant to Marsy’s Law. He stated in part, “She was the center of our family … when she died, my parents almost died from grief.” “This person does not need to be exposed to freedom anymore,” he said about the defendant.

Formed in 2014, the OCHTF is a law enforcement collaboration aimed at investigating and solving cold case homicides in Orange County. Task force members include the Anaheim Police Department, Fullerton Police Department, Garden Grove Police Department, Huntington Beach Police Department, OCDA, Orange County Sheriff’s Department, and Santa Ana Police Department.

Prosecutor: Senior Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker, Homicide Unit