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Costa Mesa man headed to trial in ex-wife's death

Defense says his client was under the influence during a police interview after the 2011 shooting.

April 18, 2012|By Jon Cassidy, Special to the Daily Pilot
  • Robert Lehmann, who is accused of killing Emily Ford, his ex-wife, and her father, Russell Ford, on May 3 appears in court at the Harbor Justice Center for a pretrial conference July 8.
Robert Lehmann, who is accused of killing Emily Ford,… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

A Costa Mesa man charged with murdering his ex-wife and former father-in-law last year after losing custody of his daughter was bound over for trial after a preliminary hearing in Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach Wednesday.

After hearing testimony from two Costa Mesa police officers, including an account of an apparent confession, Superior Court Judge Everett W. Dickey found that there was enough evidence to try Robert Lehmann, 37, on two counts of murder, each with three sentencing enhancements.

About 6 p.m. May 3, 2011, Emily Ford, Lehmann's ex-wife, and Russell Ford, her father, went to Lehmann's house in the 3400 block of Santa Clara Circle in Costa Mesa to pick up Emily Ford and Lehmann's 7-year-old daughter. Emily Ford had been awarded custody in a Family Court hearing two hours earlier.

Prosecutors accuse Lehmann of lying in wait and then killing the pair when they came to his door.

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Det. Michael Manson, recounting an apparent confession he recorded, told the court that Lehmann shot his ex-wife repeatedly in the face and chest and then emptied the clip of his handgun while shooting at his former father-in-law.

He then loaded another magazine into the gun and continued to shoot at them as they lay in his courtyard, Manson said.

Lead Det. Scott Stafford told Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy that a man across the street from Lehmann's house saw a man come out of the house, fire his gun until he ran out of ammunition, then reload it and fire five or six more times.

Manson testified that he had recorded an interview with Lehmann the evening of the shooting at Hoag Hospital in which Lehmann made incriminating remarks.

When the detective asked Lehmann what he was thinking, he said, "I had to protect [my daughter]," and "I just snapped," Manson said.

Public defender David Dworakowski questioned his client's mental state during his police interview, saying that Lehmann had taken up to a dozen pills of Clorazepam, an anti-anxiety drug, and drank several beers in the two hours between the custody hearing and the shooting.

In the interview, Lehmann said that he felt he was watching his daughter drown and couldn't do anything about it, the detective and defense attorney agreed.

His daughter had been attending Sonora Elementary School in Costa Mesa, where her mother sometimes worked. She hadn't been able to complete kindergarten there, Dworakowski said, so Lehmann wanted her to go a school affiliated with UC Irvine and had sent her there for a day or two just before the shooting.

At the time of the shooting, it was widely reported that Family Court records showed that Lehmann had skipped two hearings that day.

Dworakowski told a different story Wednesday, saying that Lehmann was "so deeply upset that he couldn't even remember how he got home."

Emily Ford's 1-year-old son, who was in a car seat outside Lehmann's house during the shooting, came to court along with 20 or so family members and friends of the Fords.

dailypilot@latimes.com

Twitter: @TheDailyPilot

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