Sex Offender Gets More Than 80 Years in Prison for Kidnapping, Child Abuse in RV Pursuit From L.A. to Bakersfield
A convicted sex offender was sentenced Wednesday to nearly 90 years in state prison after being convicted of abducting his two young children and taking them on a police pursuit through Los Angeles County in a motor home, prosecutors said.
Stephen Merle Houk, 48, was given 88 years and four months in prison after being found guilty last month of kidnapping, child abuse and detention, injuring a spouse, assault with a firearm, criminal threats, being a felon in possession of a firearm and fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s vehicle, the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
The defendant also pleaded no contest to failing to register as a sex offender.
The lengthy police chase broke out on May 1, 2018, after Houk had been fighting with his children’s mother while the family RV was parked in Malibu, officials say.
The children, aged 3 years and 10 months, woke up when Houk pointed a loaded gun at their mother and threatened to kill her, the DA’s office said.
Houk then drove the family to a gas station before forcing the mother to panhandle outside a coffee shop in Santa Clarita, according to prosecutors.
The woman was eventually able to report that she was in distress to authorities, and deputies began pursuing the RV in the Mid-City area. The chase would end up taking authorities up the 101 and 5 Freeways and into the Central Valley, a distance of over 100 miles.
The pursuit ended after about four hours, when Houk got the motor home stuck in an almond orchard about 16 miles northwest of Bakersfield.
The children and their mother were found in the vehicle, but Houk managed to escape on foot.
Officials say he found shelter at a Kern County library and managed to avoid apprehension for two days before being found inside a railcar in Barstow. Investigators said he was trying to make it to Arizona.
Authorities said Houk was on parole at the time and a sex offender in Oregon, but he had failed to check in with his parole officer for two years.
Oregon Judicial Department obtained by the Los Angeles Times state Houk was convicted of sodomy and sex abuse in 2002.