Former public board member's son
convicted in killing of family

by KATHLEEN O. BEITIKS
Staff Writer


... CONTINUED FROM FRONT PAGE


"What a tragedy for the whole family," said Don Fischbach, a Fresno attorney, former president of the State Bar and friend of Ewell's mother, Glee. "First three people died and now a bright, young man has been convicted."

Fischbach complimented the jury, however, saying it was a "diligent group of people and they worked hard."

Fresno's most sensational trial in recent memory culminated with the convictions after more than four months of testimony and more than 100 witnesses.

The bodies of Glee, 57, her husband Dale, 59, and their daughter Tiffany, 24, were found by the family's cleaning woman and a neighbor, who had been called by Dana to check the home when he couldn't reach his parents after Easter.

Fresno county sheriff's detectives were initially baffled by the murders, noting that it appeared the Ewell home had been ransacked in an attempt to make the killings look like the result of a botched burglary.

Following a long and tedious investigation, detectives arrested both men in 1995, suspecting that Dana convinced Radovcich to kill his family with the intent of gaining control of and splitting his $8 million inheritance.

Since the arrests, the Ewell fortune has fallen to about $5 million after payment of estate taxes.

Dana's conviction prevents him from claiming the inheritance, which will be split among relatives.

The case became exceedingly complicated, involved a multitude of lawyers, probate issues and complex financial transactions. Defense lawyers were denied a change of venue, but due to the sensational nature of the trial, Judge Frank J. Creede imposed a gag order in the case.

Prosecutors produced a star witness, Jack Ponce, 27, a friend of Radovcich's brother, who testified that Radovcich told him he put on several layers of latex gloves and sat on plastic sheets while waiting for the Ewells to come home from a weekend trip to their beach house in Pajaro Dunes, west of Watsonville.

Glee and Tiffany drove back to Fresno, while Dale, a rancher and owner of an aircraft business, flew home in his airplane.

Radovcich used a silencer and first shot Tiffany, a graduate student at Fresno State University. Then Glee was shot four times. Glee's body was found with her arm shielding her eyes. Dale was shot once from behind as he walked into the house from the garage a while later.

At the time of the murders, Dana was having dinner in Morgan Hill with his girlfriend Monica's family, including her FBI agent father, John Zent.

Also called to testify during the trial were Dana's uncles (Dale's brothers) who said Dana was upset when he later learned his parents' will was structured to release half of the estate when he was 30 and the remainder when he turned 35.

A decision was made to try Ewell and Radovcich together. Prosecutors James Oppliger and Jeffrey Ham-merschmidt presented enough evidence to convince the jury that both defendants were guilty of the murders. Neither defendant took the stand.

Prosecutors showed the jury that Radovcich's AT-9 rifle was used in the slayings and that the bullets most likely came from a 20-year-old box of ammunition from Dale's nightstand.

At the same time Ewell and Radovcich were arrested, Radovcich's brother Peter and his friend Ponce also were arrested in connection with the case. Ponce agreed to testify for the prosecution in exchange for immunity. He told the jury that he bought the murder weapon for Radovcich, who he thought was going to sell it for a profit.

Testimony showed that within weeks of his family's deaths, Dana had access to more than $800,000, but about $124,000 in cash could not be accounted for.

Records showed that Radovcich paid between $33,000 and $45,000 for flight lessons even though he did not have a job.

Glee Ewell was a well-known civic activist in Fresno who served from 1985-91 on the bar board of governors.

[CALBAR JOURNAL]