Inmate Receives Additional Sentence for 1982 Murder of Seaside Mother
(by Melissa Hartman) – The Monterey County District Attorney’s Office announced today
that a current inmate has been sentenced for fifteen more years to life in
prison for the 1982 murder of a Seaside woman.
According to prosecutors, Alfred Powell, 62, pleaded guilty to
second-degree murder days before his jury trial was scheduled to begin for
the death of 32-year-old mother of three Sandra Steppuhn, also known by her
maiden name of McGee.
On Dec. 9, 1982, Steppuhn borrowed a car from her friend so that
she and the roommates that her and her daughters lived with at the time could
go out for the evening. On her way home from picking up the car, Steppuhn
picked up a hitchhiker who turned out to be Powell, the district attorney’s
Steppuhn’s roommates vocalized that they wanted to cancel their
plans, but she decided she still wanted to go out. She told her roommates
that she was going to drop Powell off and go to a bar. She left with him and
never returned home, according to prosecutors.
Steppuhn’s last sighting was between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. that
night at the Quik Stop store on Fremont St. in Monterey. The clerk working
that night said that Steppuhn came into the store and bought gas while “an
unknown male” remained outside with the vehicle.
After they left, Steppuhn was never seen again. Her father
reported her missing to the Seaside police two days later.
The borrowed car was found abandoned in February of 1983 at what
is now the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel. The doors were unlocked and the keys
in the ignition.
There was no evidence, however, showing what had happened to
Steppuhn, the district attorney’s office said. She remained listed as a
missing person for the next 32 years.
In September of 2015, landscapers found Steppuhn’s skeletal
remains buried in a makeshift grave on Third Street in Monterey. She was in
the same clothing she had been wearing the night she disappeared, prosecutors
According to the district attorney’s office, Powell lived in a
detached garage on the property where the remains were discovered. He had
been working as a gardener for an elderly female homeowner.
Powell was already incarcerated on Mar. 4, 1983 for the murder of
Suzanne Kay Nixon, 30, a woman from Pebble Beach.
Her body was found in the same location as Steppuhn’s. At the time
of Nixon’s murder, Powell had not been identified as a suspect in Steppuhn’s
disappearance, prosecutors said.
Powell began serving 15 years to life in prison for Nixon’s murder
that September and has been in custody since, according to the district
On Jun. 1, 2016, Powell was charged with Steppuhn’s murder. He
stood trial for the charge following a two-day preliminary hearing that
month. During the hearing, both of Steppuhn’s former roommates identified
Powell as the hitchhiker who had been with her the night she vanished.
Judge Julie Culver sentenced Powell to another term of 15 years to
life in prison, noting that the sentences would not run consecutively and he
would receive no credit for the time he has already served.
At the sentencing, Culver heard impact statements from Steppuhn’s
husband and three daughters. The eldest daughter was 12 and the youngest was
7 at the time of their mother’s disappearance, prosecutors said.
The family discussed how they had all coped with the loss
differently, but though Powell “permanently changed their lives the day he
killed their mother, he did not break them,” according to prosecutors.
Culver told the courtroom that she had never sentenced anyone as
depraved or “intensely egocentric” as Powell. She said that he had
psychopathic and sociopathic traits and wanted him to remain in prison for
the rest of his life, according to the district attorney’s office.