MALIBU—A man who kidnapped his two children and fled authorities utilizing an RV in 2018 has been sentenced to 88 years in state prison.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office revealed that Stephen Merle Houk, 48, was found guilty by jurors on two counts each of kidnapping, child abuse, injuring a spouse and child detention, and one count each of assault with a firearm, criminal threats, fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Houk pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of failing to register as a sex offender prior to trial.

On May 1, 2018, Houk attacked the mother of his kids in the family’s RV which was parked in Malibu. He pointed a loaded firearm at his wife and threatened to kill her. The two children, a 10 month old and a 3 year old, were woke up from the attack on their mom. Houk used a .357 Magnum Revolver to threaten his wife during the incident.

Houk drove away and stopped at a gas station before traveling to a Santa Clarita coffee house where he forced her to panhandle. The victim asked for help from a passerby who contacted authorities. Houk fled when deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department responded and a pursuit commenced.

“The safety and retrieval of the children was the most important factor weighed during the pursuit,” said LASD Sheriff Jim McDonnell. The family had been traveling between Oregon, Arizona and California.

He ran on foot from the RV after stopping near Bakersfield. Houk was later discovered in Barstow where he was arrested. He was hiding inside a compartment of an empty rail car where detectives from the Fugitive Task Force took him into custody without incident.

The case was investigated by the LASD Major Crimes Bureau.