A Garden Grove resident was convicted today of killing a man and wounding two others in Santa Ana in payback for a drug deal gone bad. Dustin Sean Ross McDonald was convicted of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
Jurors, who deliberated from Wednesday afternoon through this morning, also found true sentencing enhancements for firing a gun causing death and attempted murder with premeditation and deliberation. McDonald faces up to 114 years to life in prison, with sentencing set for Aug. 26.
McDonald set up a meeting about 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 12, 2014, with 23- year-old Aaron Chavez and his on-again, off-again girlfriend, 21-year-old Ashlee Caldwell, Senior Deputy District Attorney Keith Burke said. Caldwell and Chavez were "heavy drug users'' who also dealt drugs, according to the prosecutor, who said they would sell "fake drugs" at times.
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Caldwell sold McDonald methamphetamine, and later the defendant "reached out to her to let her know the product was no good," Burke told jurors.
Caldwell "checked with her supplier," who confirmed it "was bad," so she "promised to make it up to him," the prosecutor said.
Before meeting with McDonald, the two picked up 28-year-old Ingrid Gonzalez, a friend who was working at a restaurant and wanted a ride to her boyfriend's place, Burke said.
Caldwell and the defendant sent text messages to each other before the deadly confrontation, he said. They met near Main and 12th streets and McDonald approached Caldwell in the driver's seat of her sedan, Burke said.
Caldwell motioned for McDonald to make the drug deal on the passenger side where Chavez was sitting, he said. As McDonald got over to the passenger side, he pulled out a Beretta 9 mm and opened fire on Chavez, shooting the victim in the face, Burke said.
"He just pulled out the gun and started firing because that's what he was there to do," the prosecutor said.
The defendant got off at least 10 shots, with Caldwell getting hit four times and Gonzalez three times, Burke said. Caldwell was also shot in the face and needed plastic surgery, while Gonzalez sustained nerve damage in one arm and still has issues with her ability to use it, Burke said.
Cell phone records led police back to McDonald's home, where police recovered the murder weapon, Burke said. McDonald's attorney, Kira Rubin, said her client has had a history of mental illness mixed with drug use. An expert on fight-or-flight response testified in the trial.
"When Mr. McDonald walked up to the car and was told to go around the other side, Mr. Chavez made a furtive motion and Mr. McDonald acted in self- defense.
He believed his life was in danger and he pulled out a gun and opened fire,'' the defense attorney told jurors.