Man gets 14 years in jail for causing 83-year-old woman's death

A man was sentenced to 14 years in state prison on Wednesday for the death of an 83-year-old woman whose trailer he broke into two years ago.

Late one night in April of 2017, prosecutors say Bernardo Renova, casing homes in a neighborhood near Tulare, broke into Mary Doris Steif's trailer while she was sleeping.

For reasons that are unclear, he called 911 while inside.

"You can hear him having a conflict with her, you can hear him yelling at her, you can hear him hitting her, she ends up dying," said Tulare County Assistant District Attorney David Alavezos.

Steif, 83, suffered a heart attack, and because she died while Renova was committing a burglary, prosecutors charged him with first-degree murder.

But they dropped the murder charge when a plea agreement was reached last fall.

Alavezos says that decision had to do with a new California law - Senate Bill 1437.

The district attorney's office had concerns that a potential guilty murder verdict for Renova at trial would not stick.

"The appellate courts - because of the change in the law - it was questionable whether they would uphold that on appeal," Alavezos said.

Alavezos says Steif's family understood their rationale, and on Wednesday, one of them spoke directly to Renova at his sentencing.

"She was unable to physically defend herself and you were her worst nightmare," Mark Menezes said. "That was the one thing she feared."

A Tulare County Judge sentenced Renova to a total of 14 years in state prison.

The judge didn't allow video for the sentencing, but did permit pictures and audio recording.

The sentence includes time for two other cases, including having a weapon in jail.

Steif's family member told Renova he needs to stop being a burden on society and his family, because one day, he'll be a free man again.

"We can't bring Doris back but maybe someday your family can get you back," Menezes said.

Steif was 83 years old when she died.

Menezes said Steif had a zest for life, and wasn't ready to leave the world yet.
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