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Debate Rises Over Youth's Use as Informant

Violence: Sources confirm slain teenager had worked with police. Chief says relationship had ended.

March 24, 1998|NICK ANDERSON and BONNIE HAYES and MICHAEL G. WAGNER | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

BREA — Even as Brea police continued to deny allegations that they put a 17-year-old in harm's way, well-placed law enforcement sources confirmed Monday that the police had used the youth as an informant weeks before he was slain.

Brea police maintain that they cut off their relationship with the boy, Chad MacDonald Jr., before he was found tortured and strangled, allegedly by drug dealers, one of the sources said.

The disclosures followed explosive allegations leveled over the weekend by the MacDonald family. An attorney for the family said police actions after MacDonald's arrest on a drug violation in January directly led to his violent death two months later.

Brea Police Chief William C. Lentini said Monday that he would seek to open sealed Juvenile Court records to rebut allegations that the use of the Yorba Linda youth as an informant led to his death.

"We are confident in the facts of the case and fully intend to release complete and detailed information responding to the allegations . . . as soon as we are legally able to do so," Lentini said in a prepared statement.

MacDonald's body was found in South Los Angeles on March 3, two days after he drove to a Norwalk house known for drug and gang activity. His 16-year-old girlfriend was found later that day, having been raped, shot in the jaw and left for dead in Angeles National Forest.

MacDonald family attorney Lloyd Charton says that Brea police pressured the youth to help them after he was arrested Jan. 6 in Yorba Linda on suspicion of possessing half an ounce of methamphetamine. Charton said MacDonald's mother, Cindy, agreed to an arrangement with police with the understanding that the youth's record would be cleared in exchange.

Lentini would not confirm or deny that MacDonald had been enlisted as an informant.

But knowledgeable law enforcement sources confirmed the connection Monday in interviews with The Times.

People familiar with the case say MacDonald appeared in Juvenile Court Feb. 19 to answer the drug charge. At that time, Charton said, a county prosecutor asked a judge to continue the case for 30 days to enable MacDonald to continue to work with police.

The mother, Charton said, was perplexed at what was happening because she thought her son had helped the authorities enough.

Five days later, the mother called the deputy district attorney handling the case to complain that Brea police were forcing her son to make drug buys, according to sources. According to Charton, the youth had helped police make two or three busts.

The prosecutor handling MacDonald's case expressed his concern to a Brea detective about the way the boy was being used, one source said. The detective responded that police "were no longer working with MacDonald," the source added.

The prosecutor then called MacDonald's mother and told her what the detective had said.

But when the prosecutor later read a newspaper report that MacDonald's body had been dumped in an alley in South Los Angeles, he told his supervisors that he knew the victim had been working on drug cases with Brea detectives.

On March 5, an investigator in the district attorney's office told homicide detectives in Los Angeles to contact Brea police because the boy had been working with them as an informant, sources said.

A Los Angeles County sheriff's spokeswoman, Deputy Angie Prewett, said Monday that homicide investigators had no new information to disclose in the case.

Two suspects in MacDonald's slaying have been arrested: Michael L. Martinez, 21, and Florence L. Noriega, 28, both of Norwalk. An arrest warrant has been issued for Jose A. Ibarra, 19, also of Norwalk.

It was not clear Monday when Lentini's request to open the MacDonald court file would be heard.

Charton, the family's attorney, said he could not support full public disclosure of the court files until he had a chance to review their contents. But he said he was willing to meet with police immediately to go over them.

In another disclosure, Charton said that MacDonald had been briefly detained a second time, shortly after the Feb. 19 hearing, on suspicion of drug possession and that the mother was told the youth's relationship with police was placed in jeopardy.

Times staff writer Tini Tran contributed to this story.

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