A convicted sex offender was found guilty Monday of kidnapping his two young children and injuring their mother while leading authorities on a chase from Los Angeles County to the Bakersfield area in a motor home, prosecutors said.
A jury deliberated two hours before convicting 48-year-old Stephen Merle Houk on two counts each of kidnapping, child abuse, injuring a spouse and child detention, and one count each of assault with a firearm, criminal threats, fleeing pursuing peace officers and being a felon in possession of a firearm, the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
Prosecutors say the May 1, 2018, incident began when Houk and the mother of his children got into a fight while the family’s RV was parked in Malibu.
The children, aged 3 years and 10 months, were woken up when Houk pointed a loaded gun at their mother and threatened to kill her, the DA’s office said.
Houk took the motor home to a gas station before heading to a coffee shop in Santa Clarita, where he forced the woman to panhandle, officials said.
The DA’s office says the victim eventually got help from a passerby, who called authorities. At the time, sheriff’s officials said they were able to speak with the woman via cellphone during the chase as she tried to persuade Houk to pull over.
Deputies said they began pursuing the RV in the Mid-City area. Los Angeles police and then California Highway Patrol later assumed control of the chase as Houk made his way up the 101 and 5 Freeways and into the Central Valley.
The pursuit lasted at least four hours before Houk got the motor home stuck in an almond orchard in Shafter, about 16 miles northwest of Bakersfield.
The children and their mother were rescued at end, but Houk managed to escape on foot and found shelter at a local library, officials said.
He was on the run for two days before being found in Barstow, inside a railcar he thought was heading to Arizona, deputies said.
Authorities said Houk was on parole at the time and a sex offender in Oregon but had failed to check in with his parole officer for two years.
The Los Angeles Times obtained records from the Oregon Judicial Department showing Houk had been convicted of sodomy and sex abuse in 2002.
The defendant is scheduled to be sentenced in the chase Sept. 4, when he’ll face more than 78 years in state prison.