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Laguna Beach woman was decapitated and son admitted to killing, police document says

Megan Estes Hampton
“I’m just here to say that dreams do come true — an ocean view and beautiful sanctuary to gather with friends and family,” Megan Estes Hampton wrote on her Facebook page after moving to Laguna Beach in 2015. Her 34-year-old son, Matthew Bryson McDonald, is charged with murder in her death Aug. 18.
(Facebook)

A Laguna Beach woman discovered dead in her home last month had been decapitated, and her son admitted to the killing, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in court.

A statement of probable cause written by Laguna Beach police Det. Brandon Drake and filed in Orange County Superior Court on Aug. 26 details findings of the investigation of the death of Megan Estes Hampton, 61, whose body was found in her residence at the Laguna Park Terrace mobile home community after a neighbor arrived to pick her up for church Aug. 18.

The neighbor texted Hampton that she was going to pick her up at 10:30 a.m., according to Drake’s statement. At 10:32, the neighbor arrived at Hampton’s home and texted her to let her know she was outside. After a few minutes without a response, the neighbor went to ring the doorbell and went back to her car to wait. After about five minutes, she saw Hampton’s son, Matthew Bryson McDonald, come outside, the statement said.

The neighbor noticed that McDonald, 34, was pacing back and forth and mumbling, Drake wrote. When she asked McDonald if Hampton was on the phone, McDonald said his mother had walked to church, according to the detective’s statement. He then said she had taken the trolley, Drake wrote.

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The neighbor went to the front door and knocked, and McDonald got into Hampton’s Toyota Venza and “sped away,” according to Drake’s statement. That was unusual, neighbors told police, because they hadn’t seen McDonald drive in months.

According to court documents, McDonald has catatonic schizophrenia and “requires direction to maintain consistent grooming habits, requires assistance in preparation of meals, is unable to drive and is unable to handle his personal affairs.”

McDonald lived with Hampton, who was his conservator.

The neighbor suspected something was wrong and went to get a friend, Drake wrote. When they returned to Hampton’s residence and approached the deck, they saw Hampton’s dog, which appeared to have blood on its paws, the statement said.

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The two went inside and found Hampton’s “decapitated body on the floor,” Drake wrote. They screamed for help and another neighbor called 911.

Two Laguna Beach police officers and a detective responded to the home and saw the “decapitated remains of an adult female,” along with a “knife with an approximately 3-inch black blade” lying on the floor near Hampton’s body, according to the probable cause statement.

When McDonald was stopped by Orange County sheriff’s deputies about an hour later less than 20 miles south in San Clemente, his shoes and clothes were bloodstained, according to police.

Booking photo of a white man with brown hair wrapped in a grey blanket, looking away from the camera.
Matthew Bryson McDonald, 34, pleaded not guilty Sept. 6 to a murder charge in the death of his mother.
(Courtesy of Laguna Beach Police Department)

Drake wrote that during an interview by Laguna Beach detectives, McDonald admitted to killing Hampton “by slitting her throat and decapitating her.”

McDonald was charged Aug. 20 with one count of murder and faces a sentencing enhancement allegation of use of a knife. He pleaded not guilty Sept. 6.

McDonald’s lawyer, Robert Flory of the Orange County public defender’s office, declined to comment Tuesday.

Records of court proceedings from 2007 to 2018 indicate that at various times McDonald objected to the conservatorship, only to withdraw his objections. He last formally withdrew an objection in 2014.

McDonald is being held at Orange County Jail with bail set at $1 million. He is scheduled back in court Nov. 8, according to court and jail records.

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