Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
November 19, 2009
Susan Kang Schroeder
INDICTED MARINE FACES MURDER TRIAL FOR KILLING DOCTOR IN HIGH-SPEED DRUNKEN DRIVING CRASH
SANTA ANA – A driver under the influence of alcohol faces trial today for killing a radiologist and injuring the doctor’s wife in a high-speed crash after leaving Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton (Camp Pendleton), where he was stationed. Lance Corporal Elijah Leigh Ferguson, 22, Santa Ana, was indicted March 18, 2009, on one felony count of murder, one felony count of driving under the influence causing injury, and one felony count of driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or more causing injury. He faces a maximum sentence of 18 years to life in state prison if convicted. Opening statements are expected to begin this morning, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-52, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Prior to being released from duty for the weekend on Feb. 22, 2008, Ferguson is accused of participating in a mandatory standard safety briefing at camp Pendleton. The briefing covered the dangers of drinking alcohol and driving, and the instructors told the attending Marines that they would likely kill another person if they were to crash while driving intoxicated.
Sometime between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., Ferguson is accused of drinking alcoholic beverages at Camp Pendleton after being released for the weekend. The defendant is accused of drinking for several hours and insisting that he was going to drive home to Santa Ana before passing out at approximately 7:00 p.m. in the barracks of another Marine due to intoxication. Fellow Marines, who recognized that Ferguson was intoxicated, went to get another lance corporal for fear that the defendant would attempt to drive when he woke up. While the defendant was passed out, the other lance corporal removed the car keys from the defendant’s pants pocket.
When Ferguson woke up, he is accused of demanding his keys and becoming belligerent including throwing trash on the ground from outside trash cans and breaking his cell phone against a wall. Several other Marines planned to drive Ferguson home to Santa Ana, but later arranged for the defendant to stay in the Camp Pendleton barracks.
At approximately 11:00 p.m., Ferguson is accused of asking a lower ranking Marine, a private first class, to get his keys and drive him home. When the private first class returned with Ferguson’s keys, the defendant is accused of pulling rank and ordering the lower ranking Marine to give him the car keys.
At 11:53 p.m., Ferguson is accused of driving approximately 75 mph in a 50 mph zone heading eastbound on MacArthur Boulevard in Newport Beach. As he approached the intersection at Jamboree Road, Ferguson is accused of failing to hit his breaks or slow down and crashing his Dodge Caliber into the back of an Aston Martin, driven by 63-year-old Michael Sein, who was waiting at a red light. The victim’s car spun out before coming to a stop. Michael Sein, a radiologist who lived with his wife, Grace Sein, in Newport Coast, was transported to Hoag Hospital, where he died approximately 30 minutes later due to severe blunt trauma to the head. Grace Sein, who was riding in the passenger seat, was transported to Western Medical Center and treated for bleeding in her brain and back injuries.
Ferguson was also transported to Western Medical Center to be treated for a broken ankle. Approximately one hour after being admitted into the hospital, Ferguson was contacted by officers from the Newport Beach Police Department, who observed objective signs of intoxication. The defendant is accused of omitting an odor of alcoholic beverage, slurring his speech, and having red and watery eyes. Approximately three hours after the crash, Ferguson is accused of having a blood alcohol level of .12 percent.
Deputy District Attorney Susan Price of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.