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Ceres killer Mendonca denied parole
• Man who killed in Keyes orchard eligible for parole review in 2024

Stephen Curtis Mendonca, 53, formerly of Ceres, was found unsuitable for parole during a Feb. 12 hearing of the State Board of Parole Hearings held at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione.

Deputy District Attorney Jeff Mangar successfully argued against Mendonca’s release. 

On Superbowl Sunday in January 1989, Mendonca and a co-defendant drove Kenny Stewart to a remote location in Keyes under the pretext they were going to use drugs together when their intent was to kill him over a money dispute. Once at the orchard, Mendonca pushed Stewart to the ground and put a coat over his head. The co-defendant shot Stewart and handed the handgun to Mendonca, who then fatally shot Stewart in the head.

At the time of the murder, Mendonca was on parole for armed robbery and possession of heroin for sale. 

In June of 1991, Mendonca was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to serve 15 years-to-life in state prison. While incarcerated, Mendonca has been convicted of possession of a weapon, manufacturing a deadly weapon, arson, assault with a deadly weapon, battery on a peace officer, and violating prison rules by fighting, threatening staff, refusing to perform his job assignment, and disobeying a direct order. For his additional crimes Mendonca was sentenced to an additional 20 years to run consecutive to his life term. 

Mangar pointed out that since 2007 Mendonca has refused to get his high school GED, participate in any psychological evaluations, attend self-help programming, maintain a vocation, continue to attend substance abuse counseling, or voluntarily take his prescribed antipsychotic medications. A prison forensic psychologist assessed Mendonca as having a high-risk for violence and reoffending if released due to his being emotionally, behaviorally and mentally unstable. The Board agreed to deny Mendonca parole for five years.

Mendonca will be eligible for parole in 2024 but may apply to advance his hearing to next year due to recent legislative changes classifying him as a “youthful offender” because he was 23 years old at the time of the murder. 

Mendonca has previously been denied parole in 2008 and 2013.