US man gets 16 years behind bars after killing another in Missouri 26 years ago

Timothy Stephenson was sentenced to 16 years in prison earlier this month for killing a man he met at a bar in 1998.
Timothy Stephenson was sentenced to 16 years in prison earlier this month for killing a man he met at a bar in 1998. Photo credit: Benton County Sheriff's Office via CNN.

On the surface, Timothy Stephenson had an enviable life. He was married to a doctor, and they lived in a $2 million home with their twin daughters in a quiet suburb east of San Francisco.

But Stephenson harboured a secret: About two decades earlier, he had shot and killed a man he met at a bar in Kansas City.

The crime remained unsolved until 2021, when Stephenson's dark past finally caught up with him. By then, his personal life was unravelling. His husband had filed for divorce the year before and the couple were locked in a legal battle over custody of their children.

Authorities arrested him on murder charges that December and extradited him to Missouri. And this month, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

For Stephenson, it all came crashing down after police received new information that helped them piece together what happened that night back in 1998 in Kansas City.

That information came from Stephenson's estranged husband.

He told his husband 10 years ago that he'd killed someone, court documents say Stephenson's sentencing came a decade after he told his husband, Joseph Ginejko, about the killing he'd committed in Missouri. According to a probable cause statement obtained by CNN, Stephenson told his husband in 2014 that he met the man, Randall Oliphant, at a gay bar in January 1998 and they drove to Stephenson's house in Kansas City, where he shot him twice in the bathroom.

Oliphant pleaded for his life after the first shot, Stephenson said. The
probable cause statement did not mention a motive.

Oliphant's body was found two months later in some woods in rural Benton County, Missouri, about 100 miles southeast of Kansas City. Missouri State Police said Stephenson was familiar with the area because his father and grandmother lived nearby and he'd been there many times.

In his confession to his husband, Stephenson told him he later remodeled the bathroom to mask the crime scene and conceal evidence.

Investigators interviewed Stephenson in 1998 and he admitted to taking an "unknown male" to his home in Kansas City. But he said he gave the man a ride from his house afterward and dropped him off at a different bar.

A missing person notice shows images of Randy Oliphant from an issue of the Current News.
A missing person notice shows images of Randy Oliphant from an issue of the Current News. Photo credit: Current News.

Stephenson's phone records revealed roaming charges from a cellular tower near where the victim's body was found in rural Missouri, investigators said.

In 1998, investigators also tracked down the person who'd bought Stephenson's Jeep Wrangler in May of that year – four months after the killing.

The new owner told them parts of the carpet were missing when he bought it.

Police said they found traces of blood in the Jeep's rear cargo area, but DNA evidence was inconclusive.

It's not clear why police didn't arrest Stephenson in 1998.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol declined to comment to CNN and referred questions to the Benton County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, which did not respond to requests for additional details.

In 2021, investigators planned an undercover operation to get more details Stephenson and Ginejko were married in 2008 and lived with their daughters in Danville, in San Francisco's East Bay — a suburb that was once named the safest in California.

Court records show Ginejko filed for divorce in January 2020 — six years after his husband's startling confession — in Contra Costa County, but it's unclear when the divorce was finalized.

Ginejko told police he tried to research the Missouri killing after his husband's confession but there was little information available online.

But at some point between early 2020 and April 2021, Ginejko spoke to the police.

Ginejko told them details about the killing that had never been publicly revealed, the probable cause statement said — suggesting that he only could have learned them from his husband.

In the probable cause statement, investigators said they then staged an undercover operation: an April 2021 meeting between Stephenson and Ginejko that was secretly captured on audio and video.

During that conversation, which included the estranged couple talking about their children, Ginejko brought up Stephenson's 2014 confession. Stephenson's demeanor changed and he "became paranoid," the court document said.
Stephenson asked his husband if he was wearing a wire or recording the
conversation, and even frisked him — also examining his wallet, phone and coffee cup.

Ginejko asked Stephenson several times why he killed Oliphant, and his answers were conflicting.

Stephenson finally admitted that he had indeed confessed years ago to the killing, but claimed he'd told his husband that to scare him into staying with him, the court document said.

Stephenson's 16-year sentence includes credit for time served.