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The Stepp family seemed to have it all. Parents Mark and Dolores Stepp had good jobs that afforded them a comfortable lifestyle while daughter Francine had a promising life ahead of her. But secrets inside their home would eventually erupt into unfathomable violence.
Mark and Dolores were Navy veterans who relocated from Wisconsin to Stillwater, Oklahoma in 1979. Mark worked as a technician at a power plant while Dolores was an accounting supervisor for Oklahoma State University. Both were successful at their jobs.
Friends say Mark was easygoing while Dolores had a type-A personality. Despite their different temperaments, the couple was devoted to each other and their daughter, Francine Stepp.
As parents, however, the Stepps took their military background to heart. Francine’s friends remember them being strict and overbearing.
“Her parents seemed like they were very controlling of everything that she did, who she could be friends with, where she could go,” former classmate Julie Reid told “Snapped," airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
Tensions arose when the Stepps’ little girl became a teenager.
“She was forced to go home after school every day. If they let her drive her car she had to drive straight home after school,” said Reid.
Relegated to staying close to home, Francine spent most of her time with her neighbor and best friend Cindy Sue Wynn.
“Francine was really nice, really introverted, very quiet. Cindy, on the other hand, was the polar opposite. Cindy had to be the center of attention,” Reid explained to producers.
Upon graduating high school, Francine enrolled at Oklahoma State University. However, she dropped out before the end of freshman year. Tragedy would soon follow.
Just past 6 on the morning of June 8, 1988, Cindy’s mother, Mitzi Wynn, was awoken by loud banging on her front door. She found Francine hysterically crying and saying that her parents had been murdered.
Stillwater police officers arrived at the scene. Upon entering the home, they heard an alarm clock emanating from the master bedroom. Inside were the bodies of Mark and Dolores Stepp.
They had been shot and stabbed. Mark was laying in bed while Dee was on the floor with a large knife protruding from her rib cage. They were both naked.
There were no signs of a forced entry, nor was anything missing from the home. .22 caliber bullets were found embedded in a wall and the knife in Dolores’s back matched those in the kitchen. The savagery of the attack suggested the killer knew their victims.
Francine told detectives she had spent the night at Cindy’s new apartment. She said she came home early that morning and found the front door ajar before discovering her parents’ corpses.
Detectives spoke with Cindy to confirm Francine’s alibi. When notified of the Stepps’ murder, she became immediately defensive, raising suspicions.
“I’ll get an attorney. F--k it, I’m not playing no more. I’m fed up. I’ve had a bad day,” Cindy is heard saying on audio of her interview, obtained by “Snapped.”
Cindy did ultimately confirm Francine’s alibi, claiming she came over around 9 the previous night.
On June 22, a neighbor of the Stepps contacted police, claiming she had seen Francine driving near their home on the morning of the murder, which is when she was supposed to have been at Cindy's apartment.
Investigators questioned Francine and Cindy’s friends and classmates. A teen named Michael D. Reed informed police the girls had told him they wanted to kill their parents.
"Cindy said she would take care of Francine's parents to get even with them," Reed later testified, according to local newspaper The Oklahoman.
Reed said the girls approached a local man named Jackie Phillip Myers and offered him a "big sum of money to take care of Francine's parents." Police contacted Myers, who confirmed the story but said he didn’t take the offer seriously.
Detectives questioned Cindy a second time and she cracked under pressure. She said that like Francine, she had serious problems with her parents.
Cindy was eventually kicked out of her home, at which point she moved in with the Stepps. However, the relationship soured and the Stepps had Cindy leave and told Francine she could no longer see her best friend.
Cindy said she and Francine began to fantasize about life without their parents.
“The original plan, we believe, was that Cindy would kill Francine’s parents and then Francine would kill Cindy’s parents,” former Stillwater Police Commander Ronald Thrasher told producers.
Cindy said it was just a fantasy until Francine took matters into her own hands. Investigators, however, didn’t think she was telling the whole story.
Using Luminol, crime scene investigators sprayed the Stepps’ house, looking for traces of blood. On a rug outside the master bedroom, two separate sets of footprints were found.
“That’s when we knew that we had two suspects,” Thrasher told producers.
Francine was brought back for questioning, and after encouragement from her grandfather, came clean. She claimed her parents’ controlling ways had become too much to bear.
“I just wanted to be myself. I wanted to move away from my parents. They said that if I moved out, they wouldn’t help pay for college,” Francine is heard telling investigators on audio of her interrogation, obtained by “Snapped.”
Her parents forbidding Francine’s friendship with Cindy was the final straw. When they couldn’t find a hitman to kill her parents, they decided to do it themselves.
At 2 a.m. on the day of the murder, Francine and Cindy headed into the Stepps' home. Francine was holding the gun. Cindy was by her side.
“Cindy kicks the door open and yells at the parents and Francine says the gun just started going off. Francine is kind of at a loss as to what happened. She remembers a knife but doesn’t remember a lot of details,” Thrasher said.
Francine said Cindy didn’t physically take part in the murder but helped with the planning and cleanup. The murder weapon was thrown in a local lake and afterward they went to Cindy’s apartment before Francine returned home.
“They were going to wait until the heat died down. As soon as the police lost interest, then they would go ahead with killing Cindy’s parents,” Thrasher told producers.
When confronted with Francine’s statement, Cindy admitted to her involvement but claimed she ran out of the house when Francine started shooting. Investigators, however, knew that was a lie.
“We had forensic evidence to tie her directly to the crime,” said former Stillwater Chief of Police Norman McNickle.
Francine Stepp and Cindy Wynn were arrested and charged with first-degree murder on July 13, 1988, according to The Oklahoman.
Cindy Wynn was convicted on charges of being an accessory to murder as well as soliciting for murder in the first degree. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison, local newspaper Tulsa World reported, and was released from custody in 1999.
Francine Stepp pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of her parents, Mark and Dolores Stepp, and was sentenced to life in prison, according to the Stillwater News Press. Now 51, she is currently incarcerated at the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center women’s prison.
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