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News / Clark County News

Man convicted of murder in bat attack

Battle Ground man died after being hit 20 times in the head; defendant claimed self-defense

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Local News Editor
Published: April 17, 2017, 8:29pm

After deliberating for about three hours Monday, a Clark County Superior Court jury found a Battle Ground man guilty of beating an acquaintance to death with an aluminum baseball bat.

The jury convicted Stephen Reichow, 35, of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and felony second-degree murder all with a deadly weapon in the August 2015 beating outside a storage warehouse in Battle Ground. For purposes of sentencing, however, Reichow will only be sentenced on the first-degree murder charge.

Jurors additionally deliberated for about two hours after the conviction on a special verdict for aggravating factors. They found that Reichow acted with deliberate cruelty when he killed 36-year-old Brandon Maulding of Battle Ground. During the trial, the jury heard evidence that Reichow struck Maulding 20 times in the head with the bat; some of the blows were to the back of his head, which indicated he was lying face down, the prosecution argued.

The jury also found that Maulding was a particularly vulnerable victim. At the time of the beating, Maulding had a blood-alcohol level of 0.26, more than three times the amount needed to prove a DUI, according to the prosecution.

Deputy Prosecutor James Smith said Reichow faces a standard sentencing range of 22 to 28 1/2 years in prison, but the aggravators allow the judge to sentence outside of that range if she sees fit. Reichow will be sentenced May 2.

Throughout the trial, Reichow and his attorney, Sean Downs, argued that Reichow was acting in self-defense and didn’t intend to kill Maulding.

However, Smith argued that the level of violence indicates it was not self-defense.

Reichow testified that Maulding was intoxicated and charged at him with the bat in his hand. He put up his hand to stop the blow from Maulding, he said, grabbed the baseball bat and yanked it away. He said he believed Maulding was reaching for a knife in his pocket when he began hitting him with the bat.

The altercation began while the men were at the storage unit of Maulding’s girlfriend, Anne Tanninen.

Tanninen received a strange phone call, which was later determined to be a prank, from someone talking about drugs and money. But Tanninen said she believed she was being “gang stalked” — which can include being harassed by an organized group of people. She became upset after the call and started accusing Reichow of being involved.

The three went outside, he said, where Tanninen continued making accusatory statements toward him. Reichow said that Maulding had the baseball bat and was tapping it on his foot saying, “Come here, boy, come on.”

Reichow ran away and hid underneath a trailer. He didn’t feel safe under there, however, so he came out and tried to walk away from the area, he said. But Tanninen’s vehicle came around the corner, and Maulding got out with the bat in his hand.

In a phone call to The Columbian, Reichow’s sister, Sarah Han, said Reichow and their family do not believe he received a fair trial and that there was information the jury was unable to hear.

“When we received the verdict, we were appalled. Stephen is not a violent person; he has never been a violent person. There are many people who believe and support him,” she said.