Services Today for Retired Detective John McClain

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Retired Santa Ana police homicide detective John McClain, who died in his sleep last week, will be remembered today at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier.

Services are at 9 a.m. in the Memorial Chapel of the sprawling park, at 3888 S. Workman Mill Road near the San Gabriel River Freeway. A reception will follow at the Santa Ana Elks Club.

"We'll have bagpipes playing 'Amazing Grace,' the works," said Sgt. Don Blankenship, president of the Santa Ana Police Officers Assn. "John was a legend."

Recalled by friends and colleagues as a hard-driving boss and shrewd investigator, McClain, 60, spent his 30-year law enforcement career with the Santa Ana Police Department before retiring 6 1/2 years ago. At that time he was considered among the top homicide detectives in Orange County.

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His dry wit was legendary, especially when interrogating suspects or telling about it afterward.

Even some of the killers and robbers he captured were fond of him, sending him Christmas cards from prison long after he had sent them there. At McClain's retirement, a burglar from his past materialized. It was his first contact since McClain arrested him 25 years ago breaking into campaign headquarters. The man said he wanted to thank McClain--and to let him know he had been straight ever since.

Before he turned in his badge on Aug. 13, 1989, McClain had solved all but one of his cases.

He got into police work after reading an advertisement in a Soldier of Fortune-type magazine. Five years later, after working as a Santa Ana patrol officer, McClain was promoted to what officers call crimes against persons investigations, a high-profile detail. He was promoted to detective sergeant along the way but remained with the detail until he retired.

None of the crimes he solved had the notoriety of a "Freeway Killer" or "Night Stalker" case. But McClain was well known in investigative circles for extracting confessions; in one case he persuaded an initially uncooperative killer to admit he had murdered a woman, then eaten her heart.

Some detectives described McClain as a quiet leader who demanded hard work but rewarded his teams of investigators.

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"I worked for him for quite a while as a robbery [and] homicide investigator in the mid-80s, and he was always a good man," Lt. George Saadeh said.

After retiring, McClain worked as a consultant to law firms representing officers in civil litigation. He later switched to the special fraud unit of Travelers Insurance Co., said his son, Scott McClain.

He said his father, who had not been ill, died of a massive heart attack during an afternoon nap Thursday at his Whittier home.

After this morning's service, the POA will have a buffet and reception for friends and family starting at 11 a.m. at the Elks Club.

McClain is survived by his daughter, Debbie Kagle; his son; grandchildren Chantz McClain and Kyle Kagle; and a brother and sister.

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