An Orange County Superior Court judge today sentenced a 25-year-old Lake Forest man to life in a California prison without parole possibilities for the 2009 special circumstances robbery/murder of a popular Laguna Beach hotel catering manager.
The killing was as vicious as it was unnecessary, but also unique because the victim, 40-year-old Damon Nicholson, was gay as well as killer Matthew Dragna and his alleged sex/crime partner, Jacob Anthony Quintanilla, who faces a future trial for the murder.
A jury found Dragna guilty in December for his role in the baseball bat killing of Nicholson in his North Laguna home.
Dragna and Quintanilla demonstrated their exceptional mental prowess by stealing the victim's cell phone, taking it with them to The Timbers, an apartment complex in Lake Forest, and dumping it in a trash can, according to police.
The apartment complex trash can, where the signal-emitting phone was abandoned, happened to be the same complex where both genius defendants lived with their mothers.
Working with Laguna Beach Police Department detectives, veteran homicide prosecutor Matt Murphy overwhelmed jurors with evidence of Dragna's guilt in Superior Court Judge James A. Stotler's Santa Ana courtroom.
The defendant acknowledged that he'd been in the victim's house and had sex with him, but denied any knowledge of the killing.
It didn't help Dragna's cause that after the murder he tried to sell the dead man's personal computer on the black market.