Somerset Park murder suspect bound over

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published April 20, 2016

 Charles Anthony Stephens, 53, of Troy, appeared in 52-4 District Court March 31 for his probable cause hearing on charges of felony murder.

Charles Anthony Stephens, 53, of Troy, appeared in 52-4 District Court March 31 for his probable cause hearing on charges of felony murder.

File photo by Deb Jacques

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Charles Anthony Stephens will face a felony murder charge in the death of his Somerset Park Apartments neighbor, Kalpana Murali-Babu, a wife and mother of children ages 10 and 7.

Visiting Judge Dennis Drury bound Charles Stephens, 53, over on felony murder charges in 52-4 District Court April 20 after hearing testimony from Oakland County Medical Examiner Dr. ​Ljubisa J. Dragovic, police, a pawn shop employee, Kalpana’s husband and the suspect’s wife, Tonia Stephens.

Troy police officer Melissa Raymer said that when she and another officer responded to the call of an unresponsive woman March 21, the door to the apartment was locked and had to be kicked in, and there was no damage to the door before they forced it open. She said police found Kalpana in a child’s bedroom.

Dragovic said Kalpana died of sharp force trauma to the neck from a single sharp-edged object causing excessive blood loss.
Drury cleared the courtroom when Charles Stephens’ defense attorney, Jerome Sabbota, raised the question of other injuries the victim suffered.

Kalpana’s husband, Murali-Babu Jayhabrakash,  said he and Kalpana were married for 12 years. He is employed at General Motors and said he was on a business trip to Korea when he received word of his wife’s death March 21. 

Police said that when they found Kalpana, she was not wearing the tahring necklace and pendants that signify marriage in the Tamilian culture — those items are traditionally never removed. He said a Playstation, a wristwatch, house keys and earrings were also missing.

“She would not give it away,” Jayhabrakash said of the necklace under cross-examination.

Carissa Farmer, employed at American Jewelry and Loan in Detroit, testified that Charles Stephens was a regular customer. She said he went into the store March 21 with a 22-karat necklace with two charms.

“He was loud and rambunctious,” Farmer said. “He was very drunk or high. He couldn’t stand still, He left the line. He was singing to me, offered to tip, but took it back.”

She said he wanted $1,500 for the necklace and sold it for $1,250. In order to complete the transaction, he had to give a thumbprint and provide identification.

Suspect with victim’s belongings

Auburn Hills police officer Tim Collick, who serves on the Troy Police Special Investigations Team, said police arrested Charles Stephens at a home in Detroit March 22 and found in his coat pocket a set of keys with Tweetie Bird on them, women’s earrings and a wristwatch, $160, and a card from American Jewelry and Loan.

“How it came in his possession, you don’t know,” Sabotta said.

Tonia Stephens told Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Jason Pernick she was aware she had the right not to testify against her husband or to incriminate herself, and she said she did not want a lawyer.

“I am agreeing to testify,” she said. Tonia Stephens said she had been with Charles Stephens since she was 14, and the two had been married since 2010. 

She said she was in bed when he left the apartment they shared with his mother the morning of March 21. She said he returned “out of breath” and said “(Explicative) just got real. I just killed two people.”

Tonia Stephens said he pulled a big knife out of his jacket, tossed it on the bed and told her to take it and clean it with bleach. She said he also put a game system on on their bed.

She said she did not see any blood on the knife but did as he asked and hid the knife under a shirt so his mother would not see it. Tonia Stephens said that when his mother left the apartment, she put the knife back in its holder in the kitchen.

“I was afraid he was going to kill me,” she said. She said he told her the night before that he needed money to move out of his mother’s house and that he had been fired.

“This is the third story you told,” Sabbota said, referring to information she gave to police earlier about the incident.

When Sabbota asked her why she had lied to the police about her husband’s actions and whereabouts the first two times they questioned her, she said, “I was scared for myself. He threatened to kill me and his mama. They (the police) said ‘tell the truth.’ That’s what I’m doing, telling the truth.”

She added that her husband told her “not to cross him. I’m scared of my husband. I called the police plenty of times.” 

“My heart was all messed inside,” she said of her first two talks with police.

Drury did not set a date for Charles Stephens’ arraignment in Oakland County Circuit Court.

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