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Ex-Officer Kills Himself After Alleged Rape of Girl

February 23, 1988|BOB SCHWARTZ and LONN JOHNSTON | Times Staff Writers

A former Santa Ana police sergeant, who had been distraught since he lost his job, handcuffed and raped a 14-year-old girl at his Riverside County home before killing himself on a mountain road, authorities said Monday.

James Earl McDonald, 39, was declared dead of a single gunshot wound to the head at a busy intersection near the mountain community of Running Springs, where he had parked his pickup truck Saturday evening.

The Newport Beach girl was treated at a Lake Arrowhead hospital and released to her parents, San Bernardino County Sheriff's Detective Warren Nobles said.

The name of the girl, who was otherwise uninjured in the sexual assault, was withheld because of her age.

The handcuffed girl was freed from the pickup's locked camper shell by a California Highway Patrol officer alerted by a passing motorist on California 18, Nobles said.

McDonald apparently befriended the girl when she was a student in his scuba-diving class at the Explorer Sea Scout's Newport Beach dock at 1931 W. Pacific Coast Highway. He saw her Saturday around the Newport Bay docks, then met her at a fast-food restaurant in Newport Beach, authorities said.

McDonald handcuffed the girl after she got in his truck and then drove her to his mobile home near Lake Elsinore, officials said.

McDonald began working as a volunteer scuba instructor in the Sea Scout program at the suggestion of a psychiatrist who was treating him for depression after he was fired from the police force in 1986, according to records from a workmen's compensation case he filed. The hearing in that case concluded last week, and a decision is pending.

McDonald's attorney, Seth Kelsey, said McDonald was "very emotional" after the hearing last week. "He expressed concern over what he felt was inaccurate testimony from the city's witness," Kelsey said. "But he appeared to be somewhat relieved that the story had come out in a manner that made sense."

McDonald, a 17-year police veteran, was demoted to patrol officer in April, 1986, for allegedly lying to his superiors about a shooting incident report that he had failed to turn in.

McDonald was "obsessed with proving his innocence" and had thought about killing himself and other members of the Police Department for at least a year, according to psychiatric evaluations included in court files.

Dr. Jeffrey Moran, a psychiatrist who treated McDonald, wrote that the former sergeant said he "has no intention of acting on those ideas, but that they certainly trouble him."

Moran, however, believed that McDonald "could become potentially violent and act out his aggression, not only against others, but also against himself."

Boy Scout executive Buford Hill said McDonald had been a "fantastic" volunteer instructor with the Explorer Scouts' coeducational diving program for the last year.

"We can't see inside a guy's head," Hill said. "We do the best we can to screen. He had everything we wanted in his background. It's a terrible thing to happen."

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