Tommy Lee McGuire killed his son's drug-dealing partner with a meat cleaver and drove the body from Irvine to Northern California, where he buried it in the sand along Humboldt Bay, prosecutors told jurors Wednesday during opening statements in his murder trial.
But McGuire's attorney countered that his client would do anything to help his son Travis -- including burying the body after the son did the killing.
"Tom McGuire made a decision that day that will affect the rest of his life," said Deputy Public Defender Jeremy Goldman. "He said, 'Travis, I'll take care of it.' He said, 'I'll clean this up for you.' "
The elder McGuire, 62, is charged with killing Matthew Large, a 22-year-old former Newport Harbor High School wrestler and aspiring extreme fighter.
Large disappeared in December 2001 after he visited the McGuires' Irvine apartment, possibly to collect more than $7,400 for marijuana he had sold to Travis, who was also a dealer, prosecutors say. That's when the elder McGuire allegedly killed Large.
Goldman told jurors that the younger McGuire killed Large and asked his father for help. The father wrapped the body in a plastic tarp, loaded it into the back of Large's truck and drove to Eureka, where his girlfriend lived, Goldman said.
Travis McGuire, plagued by intestinal problems most of his life, died in September 2002 of a bacterial infection.
Meanwhile, the investigation into Large's disappearance stalled. His truck was found submerged in Humboldt Bay three weeks after he was reported missing. Police questioned the father and found plastic tarps, duct tape, a meat cleaver and several guns in his Irvine apartment, but made no arrests.
The break in the case came in February 2003, when the father's girlfriend -- who has since died -- told police she helped him bury the body of a young man. She said McGuire told her he snapped the man's neck after he came at his son with a gun.
Police found Large's skeletal remains.
Wound marks on the skull indicated he had been struck over the head with the cleaver, prosecutors said.
Police issued an arrest warrant for McGuire, who eluded authorities for eight months. A tip led authorities to Choctaw County, Okla., where he was arrested without incident in October 2003.