HAVERHILL — A Merrimac man charged with stabbing a Haverhill man several times during a fight outside Oriental Garden restaurant previously pleaded guilty to strangling his girlfriend and was on probation for that crime.
Police said the stabbing occurred in the early morning of Nov. 2, after a verbal argument inside the restaurant at Westgate Plaza spilled outdoors and turned into a physical confrontation between several women and men.
Police charged Kevin Stephan, 31, of 1 Greenleaf Park, Apt. B, Merrimac, with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and armed assault to murder. Stephan was additionally charged with mayhem. Police said the victim, Stephen Cook, 42, of Haverhill sustained two stab wounds to his back and one to his left shoulder.
A member of Cook’s family said that surgeons had to remove Cook’s spleen and a large portion of his left lung. He is now home but facing a difficult and long recovery.
Stephan was arraigned on the charges on Nov. 3 in Haverhill District Court, where he was ordered held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing that happened Wednesday.
During that hearing before Judge Stephen Abany, Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Shaheen asked that Stephan be held without bail. She said that in addition to witness statements about Stephan’s involvement in the stabbing and a statement Stephan allegedly made to a witness about having just stabbed someone, Stephan is on probation after pleading guilty in Newburyport District Court to strangling his girlfriend, Maureen McLaughlin.
“He’s on probation, and he’s carrying a knife,” Shaheen said. “He has a history of violence, of carrying weapons and of violating probation.”
Shaheen added that Stephan’s criminal history includes a conviction in 2002 for carrying a gun, for which he was sentenced to a year in jail.
Stephan’s defense lawyer, Janine Lepore, reacted by saying the strangling incident had nothing to do with the current charges against Stephan and is “not relevant to this case.”
But the judge disagreed.
“It’s relevant as to whether he’s dangerous,” Abany said.
Lepore argued that it was Cook who started the argument and that when police arrived, Stephan was cooperative to the point where he held his hands behind his back and calmly surrendered.
“Is this the behavior of someone who is innocent?” Abany asked.
Lepore said Stephan was “ambushed” outside the restaurant and came to the aid of his girlfriend McLaughlin, who was on the ground being kicked and punched.
“No one has the right to take revenge actions,” Abany said. “To put him (Stephan) at home with minimal conditions seems ridiculous. No condition short of his being held would satisfy the safety of the public and those individuals involved.”
Stephan was ordered to appear Dec. 10 for a probable cause hearing.
As Stephan was leaving the courtroom, he turned to family members and told them, “Thank you guys; I love you.” Several of them responded, “We love you, too.”
In addition to bringing charges against Stephan and McLaughlin, police charged Stella Cleghorn, 32, of 14 Laurier St., and Ashley Rodriguez, 22, of 576 Washington St., with assault and battery and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (shod foot).
Police said the two women assaulted McLaughlin, resulting in a head injury to her that required hospitalization.
During his testimony at Stephan’s hearing on Wednesday, Haverhill police Detective Glenn Fogarty said that when officers arrived at Oriental Garden, they encountered a crowd of about 15 to 20 people and that some people in the crowd were pointing out Stephan as the person who stabbed Cook.