Charles Stevens Michael Hughes Lee Barnett painting
Charles Stevens Michael Hughes Lee Barnett painting
Michael Hughes (born c. 1956) is an American serial killer convicted and sentenced to life without parole for the murders of four women and girls in California, and later, in another trial, sentenced to death for the murders of three other women.
In 1985, Lee Max Barnett and Richard Eggett stayed at the remote campsite and dredged for gold together. In the summer of 1985, Christine Racowski was at the camp with the two men for a week. fn. 3
Tension developed when Racowski complained about defendant's belligerent language and accused him of stealing her wallet. Toward the end of the [17 Cal.4th 1070] week, defendant called Racowski a "fucking bitch" and accused her of trying to sabotage the gold dredge. When Racowski denied the accusation, defendant punched her in the face. Eggett said, "That's it, I'm pulling out." Defendant grabbed his .22-caliber rifle and pointed it at Racowski, saying, "I just might as well pump some lead in her right now." Eggett intervened and the gun fired while pointed in the air. According to Racowski, Eggett was upset with defendant's aggressive behavior, and the gold dredging partnership between Eggett and defendant ended at that time.
Late in the summer of 1985, Dave McGee went to the camp at Eggett's request to help him remove a dredge. While at the dredge site, McGee observed tension between Eggett and defendant, who was also at the camp. Defendant left after Eggett said he did not need defendant's services anymore. fn. 4 When McGee and Eggett later returned to the campsite, Eggett's Jeep would not start and they had to hike out. McGee subsequently saw that the Jeep's engine had been destroyed by a screw.
A week or two later, defendant went to McGee's apartment and talked to Eggett (who had been staying with McGee) through the screen door. McGee heard defendant accuse Eggett of stealing gold from him. Eggett denied it. Defendant tore through the screen door, striking at Eggett. After Eggett chased defendant back out and off the porch, McGee saw defendant pull out a hunting knife and shake it at Eggett. Defendant fled as the police arrived, saying he would be back to kill Eggett and the others.
The following summer, in June of 1986, defendant approached Greg Kersting in Chico about the possibility of gold mining. Defendant told Kersting, who had a dredge, that he knew of a place with "lots of gold" in the Forest Ranch area. Defendant claimed that he and a partner had mined up there the year before and that the partner had "ripped him off" for "pounds of gold." After several conversations, Kersting and defendant agreed to dredge for gold together.
On the evening of July 5, 1986, defendant drove to the campsite with Kersting and his wife, Margarete Haynes, their three young children, and defendant's friend, Tom Burgess. fn. 5 On the way to the campsite defendant told Haynes he was going to kill "Rich" (later identified as Richard Eggett). Defendant said: "I'm going to kill that fucker. I'm going to kill that sucker dog lips." Defendant later mentioned to Haynes that Eggett had stolen some gold from him. [17 Cal.4th 1071]
When the group finally arrived at the campsite, a small tent and a motorcycle were there. Defendant stepped out of his truck, tied a red bandana around his head, got his gun and checked to see if anyone was there. Kersting heard defendant tell Burgess to get ready for possible trouble. Finding no one there, defendant drove his truck right through the camp, knocking over tables. fn. 6 Haynes heard defendant call out: "Hey Rich, are you here, hey." Later, just before Haynes went to bed and also the next morning, she again heard defendant say he was going to kill that "sucker dog lips."
Prior to retiring for the night, defendant tried to turn his truck around and it got stuck in a hole. Defendant had the idea to tie some wood or logs on the truck's wheel with rope in order to get it out and turned around.
The following morning, on July 6, 1986, defendant began cutting trees to build a bridge across the creek. (See ante, fn. 6.) Defendant did not intend to stay at the campsite; he wanted to camp closer to the part of the creek where the dredging would be done. Kersting did not think the bridge was a good idea, so he walked between one and two miles, checking out the road for alternatives. Kersting returned about an hour or an hour and a half later. Soon after, he and the others heard a vehicle approach the campsite.
Defendant told Burgess to get his gun because it might be the people defendant had spoken of earlier, coming back to rob him. Defendant grabbed his .22-caliber rifle and ran up the side of a hill. Burgess stood with his loaded shotgun, waiting to see who was coming.
The approaching vehicle was Eggett's Jeep. Eggett was driving, joined by his mentally slow brother, Billy Eggett (Billy), Lloyd Curtis Hampton, and Bill Cantwell. fn. 7 Eggett, Billy, and Hampton had initially arrived at the campsite around June 8, 1986, to dredge for gold, but had gone into town for the Fourth of July weekend and had spent the night at Cantwell's trailer. Cantwell decided to accompany them back to the campsite that morning. As they drove into the camp, they saw two unfamiliar vehicles. Someone ran toward them and then up the side of the hill. Believing someone might be "ripping [them] off," Hampton and Cantwell armed themselves and went into the camp on foot.
There was a tense confrontation when Eggett's group came upon defendant's group. Eggett, Hampton and Cantwell wanted to know who was in their [17 Cal.4th 1072] camp and what they were doing. Kersting and Burgess tried to explain they had gotten stuck the night before and were trying to move out. Kersting showed them his family and said they had planned to camp for the weekend and do some mining. He was told they were in the wrong place, and they had to get out of there. At one point, Kersting heard Eggett and Burgess scuffling behind him, apparently over Burgess's shotgun.
Meanwhile, defendant had run to the top of the hill. After revealing his presence, defendant shouted statements to the effect of "Rich, I'm back. I've come to get you" and "Eggett, you SOB, it's taken me a year but I've got you now." Defendant pointed his rifle and told Cantwell to drop his pistol or die. fn. 8 He directed Eggett's group to drop their weapons and get out of there. Cantwell and Hampton put down their guns after defendant fired a warning shot and "bluffed" them by pretending others were up on the hill with him. Defendant told them to put their hands on their heads.
Eggett recognized defendant, and they started arguing about the previous year. Defendant cursed Eggett for robbing him. He also accused Eggett of having "a 300 pound nigger beat the shit out of [him] and kill [his] dog" the year before. Eggett denied everything.
After Hampton and Cantwell put their weapons down, defendant came down the hill. Eggett and defendant continued to argue, with defendant yelling that Eggett was a liar, a thief and a robber. Defendant got angry as Eggett repeatedly denied his accusations. At one point defendant told Eggett: "Hold it right there. I'm going to blow your God damn head off."
As defendant approached Eggett's group, he told Burgess to shoot if anyone moved. Defendant instructed Eggett's group to "empty [their] pockets" and place everything on the hood of Eggett's Jeep. Hampton put his gun, his knife and his wallet on the hood. Cantwell placed his pistol there, fn. 9 along with $1,100 from a payroll check he had just cashed. A vial of gold belonging to Eggett and Hampton, worth between $700 and $1,000, was placed on the hood by Eggett. After surrendering their belongings, Eggett, Cantwell and Hampton were forced at gunpoint to place their hands behind their heads. Eggett's brother Billy stayed off to the side.
Defendant stuck Cantwell's pistol in his belt. He took Cantwell's money, saying that it would just about pay him back for what Eggett had stolen and [17 Cal.4th 1073] that now Eggett owed the money to Cantwell. He also took the gold vial and Hampton's knife. When he took the gold, he told Eggett: "I got part of it that you owed me now." Defendant gave the money and gold to Burgess to hold.
Defendant then rummaged through the Jeep, warning that all the gold and ammunition should be given up or someone would be shot. When defendant found two boxes of shotgun shells in the Jeep, he became very upset and kicked Eggett. Defendant also took some pawn slips for gold from the Jeep. He indicated he was taking the items as payment or payback for what Eggett owed him.
Then in front of everyone, defendant pointed Cantwell's .38-caliber pistol toward Eggett's feet and clicked the trigger three times. The third time, the pistol fired and "snake shot" hit Eggett in the feet. Eggett, who had been wearing only thongs on his feet, cried out in pain and fell down. Although defendant initially appeared to express surprise that the pistol actually fired, he began to taunt Eggett, asking him how it felt to have the shoe on the other foot and remarking that it was about time he felt some pain. He told Eggett to get up or the next shot would be in his head. Eggett got up, but complained he needed to go to the hospital. Defendant told him to quit sniveling. fn. 10
After the shooting, defendant seemed more "hyper" while Eggett became subdued. Defendant grew even more verbally and physically abusive toward Eggett, kicking him and hitting him in the head, face and ribs with the butt of the gun. He beat him in the head with a frying pan and threw a small stereo speaker at his head. As defendant beat Eggett, he warned Eggett to be quiet or he would "torment the hell out of you, beat the shit out of you and kill you." He also kept calling Eggett a snitch, referring to the previous year when Eggett had called the police on him for assaulting "a girl" at the camp and for putting "machine screws" into the carburetor of Eggett's Jeep. At various times defendant said he should kill Eggett and put him "through pain." At one point, Hampton and Cantwell saw defendant snag Eggett in the back with a treble fish hook and yank on it.
At defendant's direction, Eggett, Hampton and Cantwell all had their hands tied behind them and their feet bound. fn. 11 They were put in Eggett's Jeep along with Billy. Defendant, accompanied by Burgess, drove the Jeep some distance away from the campsite while Kersting and his family remained behind. [17 Cal.4th 1074]
About an hour later, defendant stopped the Jeep and pulled Eggett out. Defendant apparently started to rip Eggett's clothes off, then instructed Billy to use a knife to cut the rest off. fn. 12 The others heard defendant say he was going to tie Eggett to a tree and leave him there a couple of days for the mosquitoes to eat. fn. 13 After defendant walked Eggett away from Burgess and the others, Cantwell and Hampton heard Eggett yelling and screaming in pain as if being beaten. When defendant returned to the Jeep by himself, some 10 to 30 minutes later, the screaming had stopped.
When defendant returned, Hampton and Cantwell heard him tell Burgess that he had tied fishing line around Eggett's genitals "real tight" and that Eggett "won't be able to screw any other chick again." Defendant then untied Hampton's and Cantwell's hands, but not their feet. At that point, defendant said he would let Hampton and Cantwell go, but that he would find them and kill them if they said anything. He also told them to leave Eggett where he was for two or three days.
Defendant then drove Burgess, Hampton, Cantwell and Billy back to the campsite. According to Haynes and Kersting, they had been away from the camp for about one and a half to two hours. When they returned, defendant allowed Hampton and Cantwell to untie their feet. Kersting was surprised that everyone seemed to be smiling and happy. When defendant said he was going to leave Eggett tied up to "suffer" a little more, Hampton and Cantwell nodded in apparent agreement and said, "Yes it's true." They also agreed with defendant that Eggett was "not that great of a guy." Hampton and Cantwell were scared and had decided to go along with whatever defendant said in order to save themselves.
Thereafter defendant produced some methamphetamine and offered it around. Kersting, Haynes and Burgess did not take any. Cantwell was nervous about refusing defendant, so he snorted some of the methamphetamine. Hampton injected some of it because he wanted to make defendant feel more comfortable. Defendant injected some as well.
Defendant eventually returned some of the property taken from Hampton and Cantwell, including their weapons, ammunition, and about $800 of Cantwell's money. fn. The gold vial, which defendant had given to Burgess, was not returned. Burgess still had it when he was arrested.
As everyone was getting ready to leave, defendant told Kersting that he was going to park Eggett's Jeep up in the bushes, and that he would be back. [17 Cal.4th 1075] He told Cantwell he was going to stash the Jeep in the woods somewhere and leave a note describing its location for Cantwell at the "slab" near Cantwell's trailer. Cantwell believed defendant said at one point that the Jeep was for Cantwell to keep.
Defendant was the first to leave the camp. While Kersting and one of his children stayed behind for defendant to return, Burgess left with Haynes and the other two children in Kersting's truck. When Kersting's truck got stuck backing out of the steep slide, defendant tried to push it with the Jeep. The truck ran into a rut, tearing off the lower radiator hose and bending the tie rod. When Haynes came back to camp to get water and a tool for the truck, Kersting decided his entire family should leave with Burgess.
Hampton and Cantwell left together on their motorcycles with Billy. Near the area where Richard Eggett had been left, they let Billy off Cantwell's motorcycle and told him to wait while they tried to find Eggett. Although defendant had warned them to leave Eggett for a few days, they thought defendant had already left.
When they got to the place where they thought the Jeep had been parked, Hampton honked his horn and Cantwell yelled for Eggett. They got off their motorcycles and started to walk, but immediately heard the motor of a Jeep start up. Figuring that Eggett would not have been able to get in the Jeep to drive it, Hampton and Cantwell believed that defendant or possibly someone else was there.
Fearing defendant and his warning to leave Eggett, Hampton and Cantwell got back on their motorcycles and went in the other direction. When their motorcycles got stuck, they abandoned them and headed to Cantwell's trailer in the dark. As Hampton and Cantwell went through the hills, trying to make sure they got away from defendant, the methamphetamine they had taken from defendant was making them hallucinate and paranoid that someone was following them.
Hampton and Cantwell eventually arrived at Cantwell's trailer around 9:00 a.m. the next morning (July 7). fn. 15 They then drove Cantwell's Blazer back to the camp area to look for Eggett. They saw Eggett's dog and followed it to Eggett's Jeep, which was a short distance downhill from where they had heard Eggett screaming. Eggett's body was in the Jeep under clothes and sleeping bags. He had been stabbed to death.
After picking up Cantwell's wife and child, Cantwell and Hampton went to the Forest Ranch ranger station and called the police. They led the police [17 Cal.4th 1076] back to the Jeep. Tied logs found on the wheels of Eggett's abandoned Jeep appeared similar to the tied logs defendant had fashioned and used on one of the vehicles the night before the confrontation with Eggett's group.
Burgess, meanwhile, had driven Kersting and his family home in Kersting's truck. They reached the Kersting home at midnight. Burgess and Kersting talked for several hours thereafter.
At approximately 10:00 a.m. the following morning (July 7), Burgess left Kersting to go to the home of Phil Enoingt and Delinda Olson. Defendant arrived at the home within 20 minutes of Burgess. Defendant said he wanted to get his hair dyed because the police were looking for him and asked Delinda if she knew how to do it. Defendant changed his clothes and shaved off his beard. Burgess, who was trying to avoid defendant, observed blood on defendant's thighs when defendant changed his clothes.
That same day, defendant came by the Kersting house for his dog. Kersting noticed that defendant looked different; his beard had been shaven and his hair was slicked back. That was the last Kersting saw of defendant until the trial.
On July 17, 1986, the police took defendant into custody after receiving an anonymous tip that he would be driving down from Cohassett in a pickup truck with another individual. When defendant was arrested, he identified himself as Daniel D. Osburn and had a fishing license in that name.
Charles Stevens was convicted in the late 1980s of murdering four people during a three-month killing spree that ended in 1989.
The painting was a collaboration between all three inmates. They both have signed it back. The painting measures 9x12.