Costa Mesa Man, 37, Gets Life For Fatally Shooting Ex-Wife, Her Father
SANTA ANA (CBS) — A Costa Mesa man who gunned down his ex-wife and her father execution-style was convicted Friday of first-degree murder.
Robert Allan Lehmann, 37, shook his head and muttered to himself when he heard the jury’s verdict, which followed about two hours of deliberations, Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy said.
“We had an excellent jury and they did the right thing,” the prosecutor said.
Lehmann shot and killed the pair after drawn out court hearings involving the educational needs of his daughter, who has special need.
The panel found true special circumstance allegations of lying in wait — which applied only to his ex-wife — and multiple murders, Murphy said. Lehmann will be sentenced to life in prison without parole on Nov. 2.
Defense attorney Jeremy Goldman acknowledged in his opening statement that his client shot and killed the victims, but said Lehmann was in a “sleepwalking state.” Goldman alleged Lehmann had taken too much anti-anxiety medication and downed the drugs with beer.
Goldman argued that his client should be convicted of involuntary manslaughter, not first-degree murder, for killing 32-year-old Emily Ford and 62-year-old Russell Ford outside the defendant’s home in Costa Mesa on May 3, 2011.
Lehmann and his ex-wife met in February 2003 and wed when she got pregnant with their daughter, Amanda. The marriage lasted less than a year.
The two shared custody of their child, who was diagnosed with Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome, a rare disorder that affects development of blood vessels and can sometimes lead to one limb being larger than the other, Murphy said. She was later diagnosed with ADHD, the prosecutor said.
Disputes arose between the parents over their daughter’s education, Murphy said, with Amanda’s mother wanting her to be “mainstreamed” as much as possible, and Lehmann advocating special education classes. The schooling disagreement led the parents to family court about 20 times, he said.
According to Goldman, his client’s child was in “great risk of being held back” after kindergarten, so Lehmann “spent tens of thousands of dollars” on attorneys and experts and was granted full control over decisions about the girl’s education in September 2010.
Lehmann decided that his daughter should be taken out of a public school in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District and placed in a child development center at UC Irvine. Another dispute followed over who would pay for the schooling.
His ex-wife ultimately told UCI officials — who required both parents to be on board — that she had changed her mind altogether, Goldman said, prompting Lehmann to file a court order on his own because he could no longer afford an attorney.
The shooting happened hours after a court hearing stemming from the schooling dispute.
When Lehmann arrived home, he sent his wife of two years out with his daughter to a local Golden Spoon frozen yogurt shop and got a gun out of a safe in his home, Murphy said. When Emily Ford and her father arrived to pick up the girl, Lehmann opened fire on his ex-wife at his front door, the prosecutor said.
Emily Ford, who had gotten remarried and had a new baby, stumbled back and was then shot in the back as she tried to run away, Murphy said. The defendant subsequently turned the gun on his former father-in-law, shooting him in the arm and then several times in the back when he tried to flee, Murphy said.
The defendant then reloaded the weapon and shot the victims in the back of the head, execution-style, the prosecutor said. A “mellow” Lehmann then called authorities and had a “casual conversation with the 911 operator,” Murphy said.
“He sounds a little bit tired” on the call, Murphy said, adding Lehmann also waited for police to arrive.
Goldman countered that Lehmann was in a fog from taking the anti-anxiety medication throughout the day, thought he had lost custody of his daughter and went home and took “a great deal” more of the drug, Goldman said.
Lehmann testified he did not remember anything about the shootings because he had blacked out, Murphy said.
(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)