Inherit Murder: The True Story of Family Murderer Dana Ewell
Dale Ewell hadn’t made his fortune in life by being a pushover. Growing up during the Great Depression, Dale knew the value of a dollar and the hard work that went into earning each and every single one of them. By 1992, he’d earned a reputation as a strict and often ruthless businessman who had earned millions by selling small aircraft through his business Western Piper Sales, Inc.
Dale’s wife, Glee, once a teacher, had spent the years of children's youth as a Martha Stewart-like homemaker and civic activist. As a stay-at-home mother, she had been responsible for the child rearing duties and Dale had been the disciplinarian. It was later said, Dale ran his home with the same force and determination he did business.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (KJV) Such was not the case for Dale’s youngest child and only son, Dana Ewell.
Spoiled Little Rich Boy
From the time Dana Ewell could talk, he’d had a knack for fabricating tales on just about anything; from where he was born to parental abuse. No one or no thing was safe from being the target of Dana’s lies.
As Dana grew, his storytelling would become a major contention between himself and his father. What may have been cute as a tow-headed child wasn’t so funny when spewing from the mouth of an obnoxious teenager.
Nor was the sense of entitlement Dana wore like an extra layer of skin.
Dale had grown up during the hardest economic times America had ever known and as a result, didn’t have a lot of material things as a child. He'd tried to rectify that, Being a self-made millionaire, by spending money lavishly on his children Dale made sure they had the finest things money could buy.
When Dana went off to college at the University of Santa Clara, he did so in designer clothing and driving a BMW. At SCU, he regaled classmates with stories about being a stockbroker at eighteen and the current owner of a company that grossed $2.7 million per year.
Dana’s lies would be interpreted as by some as those of an ambitious young man. Yes, Dana was indeed ambitious, but he wasn’t willing to work to make those stories a reality.
The Biggest Loser
One of Dana’s college pals who believed the lies that spewed forth from the spoiled little rich boy was Joel Radovcich.
Joel was fascinated by Dana, by his wealth and success and, most especially, the ease with which Dana was able to get the hottest girls. Joel, who was rather weasel-like in appearance, was extremely introverted. He lived in a fantasy world that co-existed with real life drugs and video games. Dating was a foreign concept to Joel.
His friendship with Dana changed it all. Although he still didn’t get the caliber of girls as his friend, Joel was having a blast at parties and meeting some of the campus’ more elite students.
In 1992, Dana asked Joel for a favor. Joel knew he couldn’t say no. Otherwise the good times were sure to end.
Dead on Arrival
Dana enjoyed the luxurious lifestyle his parents provided. So much so, in fact, he wanted all to himself. Now. Not after his parents were dead, that could be decades.
Or could it?
Dana approached Joel with a sure-fire plan to become a millionaire. Knowing family members were always at the top of the suspect list, Dana would secure an airtight alibi while Joel acted as a hitman.
On Easter Sunday, April 19, 1992, Dale and Glee, along with their daughter Tiffany, headed home from a holiday weekend at their beach house in Pajaro Dunes. They had no idea what (or who) awaited them inside their Fresno home.
Joel had been lying in wait for hours – on a sheet of plastic, to avoid leaving clues – when he heard the family car pull into the drive. Glee and Tiffany had driven to the beach house and were the first to arrive home. They had barely made it in the door when they were shot with a silenced 9 mm assault rifle.
Dale had opted to fly one of his small planes to the beach and was thirty minutes later in arriving home than his wife and daughter. As he entered the home, before he even realized what had happened, Joel killed Dale.
When the triple homicide was discovered two days later, Dana, as he expected, was a primary suspect but he wasn’t worried. Dana had been vacationing with his girlfriend and her FBI father two hundred miles away from the scene. It was certainly a good alibi and detectives whose intuition told them the college kid was responsible were stumped.
Smooth Liar, Bad Actor
For the next three years, Dana would play a sly little game of cat-and-mouse with detectives, but eventually he would find himself staring at life behind bars from the paws of police detectives.
Dana had seemed unconcerned by his family’s murder since the beginning. Although people’s reaction to such tragedy can vary greatly, Dana’s immediate questions about his parents’ estate went against the usual behavior.
The detectives also found it suspect Dale’s three brothers were more than willing to point the finger at their nephew. Even before the triple funeral for the Ewell family, Dale's relatives hired attorneys to block any attempts by Dana to collect his inheritance.
Investigators were catching up to him, his extended family was accusing him of murdering his family and were fighting for the family estate; yet no court filings or finger pointing could stop Dana from living it up. He continued to spend with wild abandon, lavishing his FBI-Agent's-daughter girlfriend with gifts – even paying some of her college tuition.
Dana didn’t know the meaning of job, so where was all the money coming from? Diligent detectives, knowing the motivation for the murders undoubtedly centered around money, continued to dig. Their efforts finally paid off when they discovered, for three years, Dana had bilked his ailing maternal grandmother’s account of almost $400,000. By the time investigators made their discovery, the elderly woman was left with only $2,000 to provide for her extended care in a nursing home.
Scamming Grandma was proof to police they were right about Dana Ewell. No one was safe from the greedy bastard.
The Weakest Link
Time and again police had questioned Dana, his girlfriend Monica, and even his friend Joel, but the trio continued to deny any knowledge and investigators had nothing but circumstantial evidence.
In every murder conspiracy, there is always a weak link. In this case, it was Joel. Whether it was a guilty conscience or an attempt to impress a friend, Joel eventually spilled the beans.
The breaking of the damn began with Joel's hold high school friend, Ernest “Jack” Ponce. Ponce wasn’t much to bring home to Mama. He was a petty troublemaker. He'd called upon his old buddy to inquire about purchasing a lock-picking kit.
Police were eager to solve the Ewell’s homicide case growing colder by the minute, and eagerly listened to the story Ponce had to tell; one of helping Joel dispose of the murder weapon and silencer. It seemed they were on their way to solving the triple homicide.
Unfortunately, it would seem it was all for nil when Ponce refused to take a lie detector test but he redeemed himself when allowed police to eavesdrop on a telephone conversation he had with Joel.
When police visited Dana’s dorm room at USC to tell him they believed Joel Radovcich had murdered his parents, Dana said nothing but his color-drained face spoke volumes. Investigators watched from afar as, once it seemed the lawmen were gone, Dana and Monica, who had been visiting, rushed to a nearby phone and placed a call.
The recipient of the call: Joel Radovcich.
Life Instead of Lifestyle
In the days following their announcement to Dana, police worked doggedly to build a solid case against Dana and Joel. In 1995, they arrested Dana on three counts of first degree murder. Joel Radovcich, his brother Peter Radovcich, and Ernest Jack Ponce were also arrested.
Peter and Ponce received immunity in exchange for their testimony. On May 27, 1998, a jury found Joel and Dana guilty of first degree murders of Dale, Glee, and Tiffany. Both men received three life sentences with no chance for parole.
Where Are They Now?
Dana Ewell is incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison, a fitting place for a cold-blooded family killer as it’s one of California’s most dangerous prisons. Fellow prisoners at Corcoran include some of America’s most notorious murderers like Charles Manson and Juan Corona.
Joel Radovcich is currently incarcerated at the Mule Creek State Prison in Lone, California.
Ernest Jack Ponce became a member of the California Bar in 2007. He practice is presently in Fullerton, California.
Glee Mitchell, Dana’s grandmother, passed away on March 14, 1999.
Although Monica Zent, founder of Zent Law Group in Sunnyvale, California, was perfectly content to allow Dana’s blood money to pay for her law school education, she wasn’t too thrilled when someone contacted the law firm for which she worked and exposed her secret past associations. She even went so far as to sue the messenger, leaving behind a permanent Court of Appeals opinion available to anyone and everyone with access to an internet connection.
Do You Think Monica Zent Knew Dana Killed His Parents Before His Arrest?
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© 2016 Kim Bryan