|For Immediate Release
Case # 09HF2013 February 28, 2014
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff
MAN SENTENCED TO LIFE IN PRISON WITHOUT POSSIBILITY OF PAROLE FOR BLUDGEONING AND MURDERING VICTIM IN LAGUNA BEACH APARTMENT
SANTA ANA – A man was sentenced today to life in state prison without the possibility of parole for the bludgeoning-murder of a Laguna Beach resident inside his apartment. Matthew Thomas Dragna, 23, Lake Forest, was found guilty by a jury Dec. 20, 2013, of one felony count of special circumstances murder during the commission of a robbery.
Co-defendant Jacob Anthony Quintanilla, 25, Lake Forest, faces the same charges and maximum sentence as Dragna. He is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing March 21, 2014, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-35.
Dragna has been convicted of the following and Quintanilla is accused of the following:
On Oct. 22, 2009, Dragna met 40-year-old Damon Nicholson for the first time after being introduced by a third person. The defendant and the victim engaged in a sexual encounter that night. After meeting the victim, Dragna planned to rob Nicholson the following night by going to his home under the pretense of another sexual encounter.
On Oct. 23, 2009, Dragna and Quintanilla went to the Laguna Beach home of 40-year-old Damon Nicholson. Dragna murdered the victim by bludgeoning him repeatedly in the torso and head with a baseball bat. They left the victim’s body on his couch and fled the scene after stealing personal items from Nicholson including a laptop computer and cell phone.
The victim was discovered Oct. 24, 2009, when a concerned co-worker went to check on him after Nicholson failed to show up for work or return any phone calls.
Dragna was arrested Nov. 18, 2009, by the Laguna Beach Police Department (LBPD). At the time of his arrest, Dragna was in possession of stolen items from the victim’s home. Quintanilla was arrested by LBPD Dec. 4, 2009, as a result of additional investigation and forensic evidence collected from Nicholson’s stolen property.
At the sentencing today, the victim’s best friend delivered an emotional impact statement before the Court describing the loss of a close friend she’s known for 20 years, missing the artistic and creative talent he possessed, and never being able to hug him again.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.