By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
"They were going out and she was fearful," says Stanton investigator Paul Dillon, noting that nothing actually happened that evening. "We became involved in November  to find out what his routines were, what his patterns were with all these different women." It wasn't easy. Dillon and fellow investigator Robert Wonsch say Sears routinely drives at high speeds. "Twenty miles over the speed limit was nothing for him," Wonsch says, noting that to keep up with Sears' vehicle, he once had to make a left turn through a red light against oncoming traffic. The risk was worth it for what they learned.
"You could see his routines—it was hilarious," Dillon says. "We got him on multiple days of surveillance with all the wives."
Except, of course, they weren't his wives.
* * *
It sounds like a lot of work being Steven Sears, a.k.a. Steven Allan Sears—even, say, back in 2004 when he had only four kids, and none of his girlfriends knew there were any other girlfriends. It sounds like a Rodney Dangerfield routine come to life—"I told her I was going out for cigarettes. That was a month ago!"—but with four diaper runs a night; four midnight feedings; four, six, or eight kids sick at once; and four pairs of your girlfriend's ice-cold feet pressed up against the small of your back when you finally get to bed. It's enough to make you look for a little something extra on the side—though, taking a page from Solomon, Sears seems to already have had plenty of something.
Why he did it remains unclear. As for the "how," well, Sears must be a human spreadsheet—the kind of guy who makes plans to make plans. That, and he was brainy enough to pick a prime location for his own, truncated Cheaper by the Dozen: Irvine.
The county's first master-planned city, Irvine is the ideal place to fool around on your partner. You drive into it down wide, gaping boulevards designed to keep you in your car until you get where you're going. One part of town—whether it's Turtle Rock, or Woodbridge—is artfully hidden from another by little parks or expanses of trees, so that you have to know where you're going to get anywhere. And when you do finally arrive, your destination is a Stepford-quality, two-story stucco on a quiet little dead-end street where everyone stays indoors if they're home. Most of the time, they're out working to pay the mortgage. Gloria Lee and Gladys Bazan both live in gated communities.
Lee's subdivision, which is 11.2 miles from Weekly headquarters in downtown Santa Ana, has two gates: one for residents, one for outsiders. The gates are just a few blocks from her house, which looks out on a beautifully-asphalted cul-de-sac with its own grassy round-about at the end—not at all like those '60s cul-de-sacs, where the end of it was always some poor bastard's driveway. She lives in a two-story stucco with two little one-car garages attached, a Spanish tile roof, green grass out front, and a stone courtyard with a wrought-iron gate.
But the evening we visited we saw lights—the kind you leave on if you're going out, or that the timer turns on at 6 p.m., or that stay on when you fall asleep to Letterman. Except someone was in there. There was no doorbell and the gate was locked, but when we called out there was an immediate reaction—a noise like someone rising out of a La-Z-Boy—and some of the lights clicked off. We called again, and more lights went out. We left a card and by the time we got back to the car, the house was completely dark. (Dillon, the private investigator, says he's had similar trouble serving Sears' women with subpoenas to appear in court next month; he's had to stake them out.)
Next stop was Bazan's house, only 4.2 miles away according to Yahoo! Maps, but a long and intricate drive in Irvine—down two main boulevards and up something called Ridgeline, which with a lot less traffic would be a great place to dump a body. There was a guard kiosk at Gladys' house, but no guard ("Back in 10 minutes," the sign said) so we waited. We were ready to leave when the guard came out of the back room. She asked who we wanted to see, and she asked for an address as well as a name—but she seemed puzzled by the information we gave her; I re-spelled it four times. "No one here by that name," she said, but she rang it anyway. The answering machine picked up, and it sounded like a man's voice—which might figure, considering that real estate records listed the property owner as Steven A. Sears. The guard didn't leave a message. We never did talk to Gladys Bazan—or to any of the women Sears has children with. And when we asked the guard one last time before we left, "Does Gladys Bazan live here?" the guard said the house was "owned by a man—but he's hardly ever here."