Dale Ewell hadn’t made his fortune in life by being a pushover. Growing up during the Great Depression, Dale knew the value of a dollar and the hard work that went into earning each and every single one of them. By 1992, he’d earned a reputation as a strict and often ruthless businessman who had earned millions by selling small aircraft through his business Western Piper Sales, Inc.
While Dale’s wife, the former Glee Mitchell, was a former teacher, she had spent the last several years as a Martha Stewart-like homemaker and civic activist. Glee, as a stay-at-home mother, had been responsible for the child rearing duties, Dale was the disciplinarian. And he ran his home much like he did his business.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (KJV) Such was not the case for Dale’s youngest child and only son Dana Ewell.
Spoiled Little Rich Boy
From the time Dana Ewell could talk, he’d had a knack for fabricating tales on just about anything; from where he was born to parental abuse. No one or no thing was safe from being the target of Dana’s lies.
As Dana grew, his storytelling would become a major contention between himself and his father. What may have been cute as a tow-headed child wasn’t so funny when spewing from the mouth of an obnoxious teenager.
Nor was the sense of entitlement Dana wore like an extra layer of skin.
Dale had grown up during the hardest economic times America had ever known and, as a result, didn’t have a lot of material things. Being a self-made millionaire, the otherwise strict man was liberal when it came to spending money on his children. He made sure they had the finest things money could buy.
When Dana went off to college at the University of Santa Clara, he did so in designer clothing and driving a BMW. At SCU, he regaled classmates with stories about being a stockbroker at eighteen and the current owner of a company that grossed $2.7 million per year.
Dana’s lies would be interpreted as by some as those of an ambitious young man. Yes, Dana was indeed ambitious, but he wasn’t willing to work to make those stories a reality.
The Biggest Loser
One of Dana’s college pals that believed the lies that spewed forth from the spoiled little rich boy was Joel Radovcich.
Joel was fascinated by Dana, by his wealth and success. And the ease with which Dana was able to get the hottest girls.
Joel, who was rather weasel-like in appearance, was extremely introverted. He lived in a fantasy world that co-existed with real life drugs and video games. Dating was a foreign concept to Joel.
His friendship will Dana changed it all. Although he still didn’t get the girls, he was having a blast at parties and meeting some of the campus’ more elite students.
In 1992, Dana asked Joel for a favor. And Joel knew he couldn’t say no. Otherwise the good times were sure to end.
Dead On Arrival
Dana enjoyed the luxurious lifestyle his parents provided. So much so that he wanted all to himself. And Dana knew just how to make that happen.
He approached Joel with a sure-fire plan to become a millionaire. Knowing that family members were always at the top of the suspect list, Dana would secure an airtight alibi while Joel acted as a hitman.
On Easter Sunday, April 19, 1992, Dale and Glee, along with their daughter Tiffany, headed home from a holiday weekend at their beach house in Pajaro Dunes. They had no idea what (or who) awaited them inside their Fresno home.
Joel had been lying in wait for hours – on a sheet of plastic, to avoid leaving clues – when he heard the family car pull into the drive. Glee and Tiffany had driven to the beach house and were the first to arrive home. They had barely made it in the door when they were shot with a silencer-bearing 9 mm assault rifle.
Dale had opted to fly one of his small planes to the beach and was thirty minutes later in arriving home than his wife and daughter. As he entered the home, before he even realized what had happened before his arrival, Joel killed Dale.
When the triple homicide was discovered two days later, Dana, as he expected, was a primary suspect. But he wasn’t worried, he’d been vacationing with his girlfriend and her FBI father two hundred miles away from the scene.
For the next three years, Dana would play a sly little game of cat-and-mouse with detectives, but eventually he would find himself staring at life behind bars from the paws of police detectives.
Smooth Liar, Bad Actor
Despite Dana’s alibi backed by an FBI agent, Dana never left investigators’ list as number one suspect.
First, Dana had seemed unconcerned by his family’s murder. Although people’s reaction to such tragedy can vary greatly, Dana’s immediate questions about his parents’ estate went against the usual behavior.
The detectives also found it suspect that Dale’s three brothers were more than willing to point the finger at their nephew. And before their brother, sister-in-law, and niece were buried, they’d hired attorneys to block any attempts by Dana to collect his inheritance.
No court filings or finger pointing could stop Dana from living it up, however. He continued to spend with wild abandon, lavishing his girlfriend Monica Zent (the FBI agent’s daughter) with gifts – even paying some of her tuition.
Dana didn’t know the meaning of job, so where was all the money coming from? Diligent detectives, knowing that the motivation for the murders undoubtedly centered around money, continued to dig. Their efforts finally paid off when they discovered, for three years, Dana had bilked his ailing maternal grandmother’s account of almost $400,000. By the time investigators made their discovery, the elderly woman was left with only $2,000 to provide for her extended care in a nursing home.
Scamming Grandma was proof to police that they were right about Dana Ewell. No one was safe from the greedy bastard.
The Weakest Link
Time and again police had questioned Dana, his girlfriend Monica, and even his friend Joel, but the trio continued to deny any knowledge and investigators had nothing but circumstantial evidence.
In every murder case that involves more than one killer, there is always a weak link. In this case, it was Joel. Whether it was a guilty conscience or an attempt to impress a friend, Joel eventually spilled the beans.
Ernest “Jack” Ponce wasn’t much to bring home to Mama. He was a petty troublemaker. He’d turned to his old friend from high school (Joel), who he knew often purchased lock-picking kits and other items of suspect natures from mail order companies.
Police were eager to solve the Ewell’s homicide case that was growing colder by the minute, and eagerly listened to the story Jack had to tell; one of helping Joel dispose of the murder weapon and silencer. Unfortunately, it seemed it was all for nil when Jack refused to take a lie detector test. Alternatively, Jack redeemed himself when allowed police to eavesdrop on a phone conversation he had with Joel.
When police visit Dana’s dorm room to tell him they had secured enough evidence to believe Joel had murdered his parents, Dana said nothing but his color-drained face spoke volumes. As soon as detectives left the building, Dana, along with Monica who had been visiting at the time, scurried to Dana’s jeep and rushed to a pay phone where he immediately paged Joel.
Not the typical response to learning the identity of a killer who left you an orphan, is it?
Life Instead Of Lifestyle
After the dorm confrontation, police worked doggedly to build an solid case. In 1995, they arrested Dana on three counts of first degree murder. Joel Radovcich, his brother Peter Radovich, and Ernest Jack Ponce were also arrested.
Peter and Jack received immunity in exchange for the testimony. On May 27, 1998, a jury found Joel and Dana guilty of first degree murders of Dale, Glee, and Tiffany. Both men received three life sentences with no chance for parole; a relatively light sentence for a young man willing to kill his family for money.
Where Are They Now?
Dana Ewell is incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison, a fitting place for a cold-blooded family killer as it’s one of California’s most dangerous prisons. Fellow prisoners at Corcoran include some of America’s most notorious murders like Charles Manson and Juan Corona.
Joel Radovcich is currently incarcerated at the Mule Creek State Prison in Lone, California.
Ernest Jack Ponce became a member of the California Bar in 2007. He practice is presently in Fullerton, California.
Glee Mitchell, Dana’s grandmother, passed away on March 14, 1999.
Although Monica Zent, founder of Zent Law Group in Sunnyvale, California, was perfectly content to allow Dana’s blood money to pay for her law school education, she wasn’t too thrilled when someone contacted the law firm for which she worked and exposed her secret past associations. She even went so far as to sue the messenger, leaving behind a permanent Court of Appeals opinion available to anyone and everyone with access to an internet connection.
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