Steve Magarian was born in Fresno on Oct. 17, 1942. His father was in the grocery business and also farmed. He attended local schools and graduated from Roosevelt High.
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 from CSU-Fresno.
He worked in supervisory positions throughout the department, rising through the ranks to Assistant Sheriff. In 1986, he was elected sheriff, succeeding Harold McKinney. He was re-elected without opposition in 1990, and 1994, but declined to seek a fourth term. In retirement he continues to live in Fresno with his wife, Joanne, and their two daughters.
Sheriff Magarian oversaw the completion of construction at the new main jail at the northwest corner of Fresno & M streets. and brought the facility on line. The north annex jail at Merced & M streets was also constructed 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. 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 data bases from their vehicles and to prepare and submit reports from the field. In the late 1990s he was the moving force behind the formation of the Multi-Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium (MAGEC), 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. The sheriff put every resource of the department at the disposal of detectives and I-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 had hired a college friend, Joel Radovcich, to commit the murders to gain control of his parent's multi-million dollar estate. Ewell and Radovcich were subsequently convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.