Janessa Baldwin was 14 years old when she met Anastasia Stevens.
Baldwin needed a ride home from a local FrontRunner station, so she asked for one in a local Facebook group, which was for fans of the animated series “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.” Stevens responded that she could pick her up.
“Should I have trusted a random stranger? Absolutely not. But I’m glad I did,” Baldwin said, noting that the two became close over the years, with Stevens becoming like a sister to Baldwin. “She did my first tattoo, so I’ll always have a piece of her with me.”
Baldwin last spoke to Stevens on May 17. Two days later, on Friday morning, Stevens’ husband reported to police that he had killed Stevens, her 73-year-old father, her 61-year-old stepmother and three of the family’s four dogs at their Layton home.
Baldwin learned that Stevens had been killed about an hour after a post was made to Stevens’ Facebook page Friday morning. The post, which was published at about the same time Stevens’ husband called 911, read: “MASSACRE,” and said that the man had “JUST KILLED EVERYONE Becky Stevens Don Stevens AND 3 OF THE 4 DOGS.”
The post included the couple’s home address, which was in the 1800 block of Gentile Ave., police said.
“I tried calling her cellphone and she didn’t answer,” Baldwin said. “I was very concerned because usually she wouldn’t post something like that.” Soon after, Stevens’ aunt told Baldwin that Stevens and her parents had been killed.
When the husband called police at 9:45 a.m. Friday to confess to the killings, he mentioned that he had surrendered his guns to a friend before the shootings, because he “was thinking of doing this a few days ago,” police said.
But the 34-year-old also told dispatchers that he had forgotten about a gun that belonged to one of the victims, police said. He was armed with that weapon when he called dispatchers, about 45 minutes after he had left the home that morning to purchase ammunition, according to a probable cause statement.
On Friday evening, the husband was booked into Davis County Jail on suspicion of three counts of aggravated murder, three counts of discharging of a firearm, and three counts of aggravated cruelty to animals. He remains in custody without bail. The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not name defendants unless they have been formally charged with a crime.
During Baldwin’s last conversation with Stevens two days before her death, Stevens shared that she suspected her husband had cheated on her again.
“When she had messaged me, it wasn’t a, ‘Hey, I’m in danger,’ type of text. It was just a, ‘I can’t believe he did this,’” Baldwin said. “I had told her that she shouldn’t be with him if he was going to continually to cheat on her.”
In a Facebook post from 2018, about three years before Baldwin said the couple married, Stevens discussed her relationship with her then-boyfriend. She said her “unfaithful, lying, cheating, self-centered, sadistic, narcissistic, sociopath of a ‘boyfriend’” used Facebook “as a gateway to indulge his depravity.”
In the post, Stevens also wrote that she was “not suicidal,” and that if she ended up “mysteriously ‘missing,’ it’s definitely suspicious.”
“I know this is ultimately my decision and my f--- up. I get it. And I hate myself too,” the post states. “Trust me. Don’t bother wasting your breath. But yeah. I really don’t know what the point of this post is. I guess, just. An FYI on why I’m not really online anymore.”
Baldwin said the two had been going to couples therapy, but Stevens had never relayed that her husband may be violent.
“With [him] cheating, it’s emotional abuse, but there wasn’t any verbal abuse that I was aware of. There wasn’t any physical abuse that I was aware of,” Baldwin said. “For me, yes, he was a friend, but I wasn’t too happy with him cheating on [Stevens].”
“I didn’t sense that he would like ever do anything like this,” she said of the allegations that he killed Stevens and his in-laws, Donald Stevens and Becky Lloyd Stevens.
One of Baldwin’s favorite memories of Stevens was from high school, when she helped Baldwin through a bout of depression.
“She listened to me regardless of me being a stupid teenager,” Baldwin said. “She wanted to help in any way that she could.”
Baldwin said Stevens and her husband once helped Baldwin move to a house about 15 minutes away from where Stevens had lived at the time. She recalled that Stevens had refused Baldwin’s attempts to give them gas money.
“She was very selfless,” Baldwin said. “She cared about people, and pretty much everything that was precious.”
Stevens was also very close with her father, said Jesse Edelson, who was friends with Stevens for almost 20 years.
Edelson hadn’t spoken with Stevens for the last year and a half, though, because her husband found it “threatening” for her to be close with other men, Edelson said.
“I think she was coming to the realization after a decade of fighting ... [that] as passionate as she was toward romantic love, it was hampering her well-being,” Edelson said.
He said neighbors had seen Stevens’ husband and her father arguing, and Edelson believes the father and her stepmother had been supporting Stevens as she decided to leave.
“He realized he was losing control,” Edelson surmised of the husband. He added that Stevens’ dogs were “her life,” and that the three animals police said the husband killed were Stevens’; the only dog that was spared belonged to her husband.
Baldwin said Stevens’ care for animals, and others, is a legacy that Stevens leaves behind. She said she felt like Stevens would have wanted donations to go to animal charities in her honor.
Stevens’ family also set up a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for funeral expenses, which had raised more than $1,400 of its $8,000 goal as of Monday afternoon.
Editor’s note • Those who are experiencing intimate partner violence, or know someone who is, are urged to call the Utah Domestic Violence Link Line, 1-800-897-LINK (5465), or Utah’s 24-hour Sexual Violence Help Line at 801-736-4356 (English) or 801-924-0860 (Spanish).