Oildale

Man arrested in Oildale stabbing; jailed on suspicion of murder

Man arrested in Oildale stabbing; jailed on suspicion of murder »Play Video
Stabbing suspect Ronald Burchett, 57, is seen in a photo provided Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, by the Kern County Sheriff's Office.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — An arrest has been made in a deadly stabbing in Oildale.

Steven "Caleb" Corpe was stabbed Dec. 18 outside the Dollar General on Roberts Lane. On Thursday, the suspect was in jail and the victim's family said they were very relieved.

"I'm happy," sister Sianie Wallace told Eyewitness News. "I'm happy that he's in custody, I just hope we can get justice for Caleb."
 

A fight between Corpe and the stabbing suspect, 57-year-old Ronald Burchett, grew from an earlier altercation between Burchett and an acquaintance of Corpe, according to the Kern County Sheriff's Office.

In jail on Thursday, Burchett said they had argued earlier. And, he said Corpe then came after him with a Taser. Burchett said he armed himself with a knife.

"I swung, I was going to hit him on the hand or on the right shoulder where he can drop the Taser," Burchett said. "But, I hit him on the chest, up." Burchett said it was self-defense.
 

Eyewitness News hoped to ask investigators about any Taser found at the scene, but couldn't reach any officers. The victim's sister said she's not aware of Corpe having a Taser.

If Burchett's saying he acted in self-defense, the sister had plenty of questions.

"Did he have to kill him?" Wallace asked. "Couldn't he have not just run away?"

Burchett said he had reasons for taking off and hiding after the incident.

"I did prison time before," he said. "I was scared. I didn't want to go back to prison for something I didn't do."

Asked about his prison time, Burchett said he served a 21-year sentence for a bank robbery in Bakersfield in 1990. Burchett said he got out of prison in 2011, and then spent a year in a half-way house.

Burchett said after that, he lived in his truck and worked at the Food Bank in Bakersfield for about six months. Food Bank manager Ken White confirmed Burchett had worked there.

Burchett said after the incident, he called the Food Bank to say he wasn't coming in any more, and told them why. Burchett said someone tried to talk him into turning himself in, but he just couldn't do it.

Burchett said he lived in various areas along the Kern River for the next four weeks, hiding out.

"I was drinking a lot of beer and pints of vodka trying to keep my sanity," he said. "To figure out what I'm doing, what went wrong, and why."

Burchett was located Wednesday afternoon near the Kern River in Oildale, the sheriff's office said Thursday. He was booked into county jail on suspicion of murder, and is set to be in court on Friday.

The victim's family is struggling with their loss, and says the upcoming judicial process is the beginning of a long road.

"I don't know how I feel right now," widow Justine Corpe said. "I have mixed feelings. I'm happy, but I'm sad."

Burchett had a message for the family.

"I'd like to tell the family I'm sorry," he said. "I can't bring their son back, or their husband back, or their father back. I'm sorry, I'm deeply sorry for their loss.