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Hitchhiker gets life for murder

OREGON CITY — An Oregon hitchhiker was sentenced to life in prison for the scissor-stabbing death of a motorist who performed oral sex on him.

Michael Stepina, 38, a tattoo artist from Albany, made no statements Tuesday following a two-week trial in Clackamas County, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

The victim, 55-year-old Timothy Way, was stabbed 66 times at an Interstate 5 rest area near Wilsonville. A passer-by discovered the body shortly after the October 2015 killing, and a sheriff's deputy spotted Stepina walking along I-5.

"'Til death do us part,' I thought that wouldn't be for a long, long time to come, but you, Michael Stepina, took all of that away, violently, suddenly, forever," Deanna Way said. "My husband died alone. He bled to death on the hard, cold ground."

Stepina told investigators Way performed oral sex on him after picking him up and offering him a shower and a meal. Way's wife was out of town.

The hitchhiker took the scissors from Way's bathroom and attacked Way when he was dropped off at the rest area.

Prosecutor Sarah Dumont said during closing arguments Monday that Stepina felt emasculated when Way performed the sex act and then gave him money.

"He felt that he had been treated like a prostitute, and what he decided he was going to do was show Mr. Way that he was a man," Dumont said. "The way he chose to do so was by planning and brutally murdering him."

She dismissed defense claims that Stepina was defending himself, saying Way didn't have a weapon and Stepina never tried to leave.

Defense attorney Zack Lorts described Stepina as a military veteran suffering from a condition that weakened his muscle use and decreased his ability to think clearly. Lorts said that made Stepina vulnerable to Way, who was 6-foot-4 and nearly 500 pounds.

The lawyer also contended that Way had a "predatory sexual interest" in homeless, young men. He said deputies two months before the stabbing interviewed a homeless man who ran out of Way's house wearing only a towel after feeling a sense of danger.

Judge Douglas Van Dyk told Stepina the penalty of life in prison is one he "truly and justly deserves."

Stepina will be eligible for parole in 25 years.

Michael Stepina is sentenced to life in prison Tuesday in the killing of 55-year-old Timothy Way at the French Prairie Rest Area near Wilsonville in October 2015. A Clackamas County jury had earlier found Stepina guilty of murder. (Everton Bailey Jr./The Oregonian via AP)