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Couple mourned after shooting in South County

November 25, 1999

Eron Ben-Yehuda

Marilyn Lord remembers her neighbors Kenneth and Carolyn as a kind,

hard-working couple.

She had a bubbly personality. He was more reserved.

"I keep expecting to see them driving up, but I know that they're not,"

Lord said. "It's just sad, beyond sad."

Kenneth C. Stahl and Carolyn Oppy-Stahl were found shot dead Saturday

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night in their car parked along Ortega Highway, about nine miles east of

San Juan Capistrano, said Orange County Sheriff's Department spokesman

Jim Amormino.

Just one day earlier, Oppy-Stahl, an optometrist, had turned 44, but the

couple waited until Saturday to celebrate. Her 57-year-old husband, an

anesthesiologist, had treated six patients on Friday.

"We just can't understand it," Hal Polley, Kenneth Stahl's stepfather,

said of the killing. "It just seems like you're in one of those Third

World countries where this is a common occurrence."

Now, the couple's friends and family are grappling with the loss of two

people who were known as kind and caring of others.

Stahl gave free medical care to indigent people, Polley said. He owned a

private medical practice in the Pacifica Hospital building and had worked

17 years at Huntington Beach Hospital, including a stint as chief

anesthesiologist, said Kitty Beato, the hospital's director of physician

services.

"Ken and Carolyn were two of the most beautiful people in the world,"

Polley said. "They were good Christians."

And Stahl's hard work and dedication earned him tremendous respect from

his peers, Beato said.

"[His death] sent a shock wave through the medical community," she said.

Stahl underwent quintuple-bypass heart surgery four months ago but had

recovered "beautifully," Polley said.

Stahl's family did not expect him to survive the surgery, Polley said.

But Stahl kept himself in great physical condition afterward, jogging

daily, Polley said.

"At his age, he looked like a man 30 years old," he said.

While her husband was very reserved, friends recalled Oppy-Stahl's

ever-present smile and bubbly personality.

"Carolyn was the sweetest thing on this earth," Polly said.

She treated patients at Lakewood Eye Physicians and Surgeons clinic. A

memorial with cards and flowers was set up in her office.

Rose Cain, manager of the clinic, had a difficult time speaking about the

incident.

"It's the saddest time in our life right now," she said. "She's the best

thing that ever happened to us.

"It's just a cruel world. I hope they find whoever did this."

A security guard for Mission Viejo Ranch found the couple at about 10:30

p.m. Saturday night. They were slumped over in their silver 1996 Dodge

Stratus, with the engine running and the headlights on, police said. The

car was just steps away from a call box, which had not been used,

officials said.

Numerous gunshots had shattered the driver's side window, but police

could not find any ammunition casings at the scene, suggesting that the

shooter or shooters used a revolver or recovered the casings.

But there have been no breakthroughs in finding a motive or suspects in

the shooting. "At this point it's still a mystery," Amormino said.

The couple had driven to either San Juan Capistrano or San Clemente for a

birthday celebration, investigators said.

Anyone with information is urged to call the Sheriff's Department at

647-7055 or after hours at 628-7170.

FYI

A memorial service for Kenneth C. Stahl and Carolyn Oppy-Stahl will be

held at 1 p.m. Dec. 4 at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Placentia.

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