More than two years have passed since Darell Battee was fatally stabbed after confronting a man he believed posed a danger to his daughter, but the pain his family feels lingers on.
Battee's mother, Mischelle Roberson, asked her son's killer Wednesday the question that's been on her mind since Battee's death.
"Why did you kill my son?" Roberson asked 23-year-old Jacob Kephart. "Do you know you killed him in front of my 13-year-old granddaughter? You gutted him!"
Kephart looked down as Roberson vented, and Judge Colette M. Humphrey reminded her to address her comments to the court and not the defendant.
Roberson repeatedly called Kephart a "monster" as she returned to her seat.
The pain Roberson feels is in part due to the sentence Kephart received: Seven years for pleading to voluntary manslaughter. She said Kephart got a "slap on the wrist" and deserved a life sentence for taking her son from her.
Prosecutor Gina Pearl said the plea deal was offered after two trials in which Kephart was charged with second-degree murder ended in hung juries. She said she's not happy with the outcome either.
Tony Lidgett, Kephart's attorney, said neither Kephart nor Battee are to blame for the Dec. 20, 2011, incident. He said Battee believed his daughter was in danger, and Kephart defended himself when Battee approached him holding what appeared to be a weapon.
If anyone's to blame, Lidgett said, it's the woman Kephart had recently begun dating who was in his pickup as they drove through the 4000 block of O Street north of downtown Bakersfield. Lidgett described the woman as a bipolar exotic dancer who began screaming at Kephart to let her out of his truck.
Kephart stopped and she got out, but he realized it wasn't the safest neighborhood and tried to persuade her to allow him to drive her somewhere else, Lidgett said. One of Battee's children saw Kephart and the woman yelling, and ran for her father.
Battee tried to intercede and Kephart -- who was later found in possession of a fixed-blade knife -- stabbed him, according to police. Battee walked to the Royal Palms Apartments in the 1000 block of West Columbus Street and collapsed.
A coroner's office news release said the 31-year-old died at 6:02 p.m.
Kephart fled the scene and was found in the 300 block of Royal Way, police said.
"Don't get involved" is Roberson's message to people who see something suspicious. Call 911, she said, but don't help anyone who's in trouble because you could share her son's fate.
"Nothing can take away the pain that I have," she said.