Leadership and Integrity Award 2021 – Steve Magarian – Former Fresno Sheriff
Award Winner is Steve Magarian – Former Fresno Sheriff (Wife Joann)
Steve Dan Magarian
Fresno County Sheriff
Steve Magarian was born in Fresno on October 13, 1942. His father was in the grocery business and farmed. Steve attended local schools and graduated from Roosevelt High School. His law enforcement career began in 1966 as a reserve deputy sheriff. In 1968, he was hired as a regular deputy working in the jail, courts, and patrol early in his career.
While working at the department, he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in criminology from California Sate University, Fresno. He also completed the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He worked in supervisory positions throughout the department, rising through the ranks to Assistant Sheriff.
In 1986, he was elected sheriff, succeeding Sheriff Harold McKinney. Steve was re-elected without opposition in 1990, and again in 1994, but declined to seek a fourth term.
In retirement, Steve continues to live in Fresno with his wife, Joanne and their daughter, Erica. He continues to stay busy by being involved in his community and recently completed his 20th year of teaching classes in Criminology at California State University, Fresno.
Sheriff Magarian oversaw the completion of construction at the new main jail at the northwest corner of Fresno & M Streets and brought the facility online. The north annex jail at Merced & M Streets was also construction during his tenure. On his watch, the department switched over from the original tan uniforms to the standardized state sheriff’s uniform of tan shirts and green pants.
Additionally, a new badge was designed for deputy sheriffs, correctional officers, and auxiliary units. He also initiated the department’s helicopter program. While he was sheriff, the agency became one of the first in the nation to be equipped with a computerized field reporting system, a wireless network which allowed deputies to access law enforcement databases from their vehicles and to prepare and submit reports from the field.
In the late 90’s, he was the moving force behind the formation of the Multi-Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium (MAGIC) which took on the burgeoning street gang problem in Fresno County.
The most notable crime during Sheriff Magarian’s term of office was the Ewell murder case. In April 1992, Dale, Glee and Tiffany Ewell were discovered shot to death in their Sunnyside area home. Detectives quickly focused on the surviving member of the family, 21-year-old Dana Ewell as a suspect.
Sheriff Magarian put every resource of the department at the disposal of detectives and identification bureau, authorizing extensive out of county travel and investigation which was essential in building a prosecutable case.
After an exhaustive three-year investigation, deputies assembled a case which proved that Dana Ewell hired a college friend, Joel Radoveich to commit the murders to gain control of his parent’s multi-million dollar estate. Ewell and Radoveich were subsequently convicted of 1st degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.