FRESNO — The son of a prominent Fresno family was convicted Tuesday of murdering his parents and sister with the help of a college dorm mate in a plot to inherit the family's $8-million estate.
After 11 days of deliberations, a Fresno County Superior Court jury found that 26-year-old Dana Ewell hired his college friend, Joel Radovcich, to kill his family so they could split the family's fortune.
Both were found guilty in the murders of Dale Ewell, 59; his wife, Glee, 57, and their daughter, Tiffany, 24.
The conviction of both men on three counts of first-degree murder in the 1992 slayings means that they are eligible for the death penalty.
During the four-month trial, prosecutors had argued that Ewell and Radovcich wanted to be millionaires by the time they turned 25.
The victims were shot to death in their Fresno home on Easter, just after returning home from a trip to the coast. Dana Ewell, then 21, remained at the coast to have dinner with his girlfriend's family, including her FBI agent father.
Despite that alibi, Fresno County sheriff's investigators said Dana Ewell was the prime suspect from the start. However, he and Radovcich weren't arrested until 1995 after a friend of Radovcich gave a detailed account of the killings that he said he learned from Radovcich.
The friend, Ernest Jack Ponce, testified in court that Radovcich, now 27, told him that Tiffany Ewell was the first victim to be shot.
"He said she walked by the room he was waiting in and he shot her. . . . He said he shot her in the head," Ponce said.
He testified that Radovcich shot the mother several times, then changed magazines in the gun and put on fresh gloves while waiting for Dale Ewell to come home.
"He said the father came in the door, and he waited until he shut the door and waited until the father walked past the room he was in and then he stepped out and shot him," Ponce said.
Ponce testified that he purchased the assault rifle that Radovcich used in the killings and helped him dispose of gun parts, fired shells, a silencer and tennis shoes.
Ponce was not charged because prosecutors granted him immunity in exchange for his testimony.
Prosecutors contended that the only way that Radovcich could get into the Ewell home was with the help of Dana Ewell, who knew the alarm security code.
Ewell's attorney, Ernest Kinney, said that his client wasn't involved and that Ponce and Radovcich plotted the slayings by themselves. Kinney accused Ponce of being the killer.
Radovcich's lawyer, Phillip Cherney, didn't deny his client's involvement but instead painted Radovcich as a victim.