Murder suspect admits storing body in his shed
When the love of his life turned up dead in his Reseda home, Mark Allen Steffen stuffed her in a box, locked it in a shed and got on with his life. The 58-year-old part-time auto repossessor, on trial charged with murdering his girlfriend, Dina Canale, admitted as much before his defense rested Monday. He agreed he’d slapped her around. He acknowledged he’d lied to police when they asked where the 37-year-old mother of three had gone. Steffen even said he’d invited an old flame over for a barbecue next to the shed – where Canale’s corpse sat rotting. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champBut stashing the body until he could find the right place to bury her was all he admitted. He didn’t kill her, he said. “What I did wasn’t reasonable at all,” he testified. “It was a very bad decision on my part.” After his testimony, the two sides gave closing arguments in Van Nuys Superior Court, and the jury began deliberating. If convicted of second-degree murder, he faces a possible life sentence. Steffen and Canale were dating for a few months when Canale went missing Aug. 12, 2006. He told a friend they argued, he kicked her out and she vanished. The next time he saw her, he testified, she turned up mysteriously dead in his house. Steffen, a gray-bearded, pony-tailed man who sat placidly through most of the four-day trial, said he wanted to preserve her body for burial on land he planned to buy in Washington state. So he placed her in a box and stored her in a shed behind his Lindley Avenue home until he could make appropriate plans. Jon Anderson, Steffen’s sometime boss and alleged drug dealer who introduced him to Canale, dropped by about two weeks after her disappearance and smelled a strong odor wafting from the shed. Since he had previously noticed a cut on Steffen’s arm and saw that Canale was still missing, he wanted answers. “Are you doing some O.J. (stuff) in there?” Anderson asked him, according to testimony. Steffen told him the smell was probably a dead opossum and changed the subject. Soon after, he headed north on what he said was a pre-planned trip. Eventually, his brother alerted police that something was terribly wrong. On Sept. 21, 2006, officers cracked the lock and discovered Canale’s skeleton. Cops caught up with Steffen in Port Orchard, Wash., about a week later, arresting him on suspicion of murder. The body was so badly decomposed, investigators couldn’t determine how she died. Deputy Public Defender Alan Budde seized on the lack of a cause of death, saying prosecutor Jane Winston had not proved his client murdered Canale. “Hiding the body is offensive, we know that,” he said in his closing argument. “It’s nasty and offensive, but it doesn’t solve the case.” Winston acknowledged she couldn’t prove Steffen beat Canale to death, but said his string of lies on the stand and to investigators showed his story didn’t hold up. “Probably the most bizarre story ever heard,” she noted in her closing. “He is not a 17-year-old with poor judgment. He has been around. He knows you don’t put a body in a box, in a shed, in the summer, in the Valley.” As jurors began deliberating, Canale’s sister-in-law Joanna Lampert wiped away tears. Canale had a drinking problem, she said, and had run into hard times. But even with all her troubles, she was still a doting mother and beloved part of the family. The day before she disappeared, she celebrated her 6-year-old son’s birthday with her kids and talked about kicking her drinking habit. She hoped to turn things around. “It’s a horrible disease, but plenty of people have trouble with alcohol,” Lampert said. “She didn’t deserve to die like this.” UPDATED Tuesday, 12/18, 4:21 p.m.Jurors found Steffen guilty of murder Tuesday morning. For the full story, click here.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!