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California and the West

Slain Youth's Work as Informant Detailed

Drugs: Records show teenager, who was tortured and killed, cooperated with police until 10 days before his body was found.

April 02, 1998|BONNIE HAYES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — Chad MacDonald Jr., the Yorba Linda teenager who was tortured and killed last month, had worked as an informant for the Brea Police Department until 10 days before his body was found, according to documents released Wednesday.

The documents, internal reports compiled by police and prosecutors, spell out for the first time MacDonald's relationship with Brea drug investigators. The release of the documents also marked the first public acknowledgment by police officials that they used the 17-year-old as an informant.

The teenager's family contends it was this work as an informant that marked MacDonald as a "narc" and cost him his life.

Law enforcement officials, however, stressed that the police files show MacDonald did nothing that could be considered life threatening: He mainly provided information about illegal activity and made only one undercover drug purchase, which failed to result in any arrest.

He was dropped as an informant about 10 days before his death when police suspected that MacDonald continued to use and sell methamphetamines in violation of his agreement with police, according to the reports made public by an Orange County judge.

Brea Police Chief William C. Lentini said Wednesday that MacDonald was responsible for his own death.

"Here was a kid who is 90 days away from his 18th birthday and who's had a lot of experience in the drug world already," Lentini said. "It is not our belief he was killed because of his involvement with us, but because of his very deep involvement with drugs in general."

But MacDonald's family members say the documents support their contention that police are responsible.

"If he had not been working as a snitch with the cops, Chad would be alive today," said Lloyd Charton, an attorney for the family. Charton said he believes MacDonald's work as a "snitch" became known to his killers in Norwalk, where the teenager went March 1. MacDonald's body was found two days later in a South Los Angeles alley.

"It doesn't take a genius for these people to figure out who's ratting them out," Charton said.

The documents were released after days of allegations traded by authorities and the family's attorney. Initially, Lentini said he believed he was barred from discussing MacDonald's case because it involved confidential juvenile records. The records were released by Superior Court Judge Ronald E. Owen to MacDonald's family, and Charton made public only selective portions.

Police and the media returned to court Wednesday and Owen gave police and prosecutors permission to release some records and to discuss the case.

MacDonald was arrested Jan. 6 on charges of possession of methamphetamine with the intent to deliver. MacDonald and his mother, Cindy MacDonald, signed an agreement with police that allowed him to work as a confidential informant in exchange for the possibility of leniency.

Detectives had been targeting a drug house near Esperanza High School in Yorba Linda when MacDonald--a former student there--told police he was familiar with the house, had previously dealt drugs around the campus and was "anxious to become a confidential informant," according to the documents.

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