Laguna Beach Police have arrested a suspect in the bludgeoning death of Damon Nicholson in his home Oct. 23.
Matthew Thomas Dragna, 19, of Lake Forest, was taken into custody Tuesday at a rehabilitation facility in Santa Ana, Lt. Jason Kravetz said. He is being held on $1 million bail and will be arraigned today, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s office.
Dragna is believed to have slain Nicholson during a robbery at the victim’s North Laguna home.
The two knew each other, and Kravetz said that Nicholson may have invited Dragna to his home.
“He entered the home of Damon Nicholson in the early morning hours and bludgeoned the victim and fled with numerous items,” Kravetz said.
Police are trying to find Nicholson’s stolen Macintosh laptop, which they believe Dragna may have sold.
Other items stolen include computer equipment, cell phones and clothing, some of which has been recovered.
Police searched Dragna’s family home in Lake Forest and recovered key evidence in the case, Kravetz said.Dragna may have met the victim recently, possibly over the Internet, Kravetz said.
“He [Dragna] probably went over to rob [Nicholson],” Kravetz said.
The district attorney is charging Dragna with one count of murder. He faces a maximum of 25 years to life if convicted.
Nicholson was a popular catering manager for the Hotel Laguna.
Hotel owner Claes Andersen has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect.
Victim remembered at memorial service
A memorial for Nicholson, organized by hotel employees, was held Nov. 13 at Tivoli Terrace.
The Rev. Michael Ahern, who worked with Nicholson at weddings at the hotel, eulogized Nicholson as “a dear and respected friend” and urged mourners to get beyond their anger at what happened to him.
“I cannot count the number of wedding ceremonies Damon and I did together at the Hotel Laguna, but I will tell you, Damon was the best,” Ahern said.
“It’s hard to lose a loved one, but as you think of Damon, please remember that Damon celebrated every day by expressing his own unique energy,” he said.
“None of us expresses God’s love perfectly, but God looks at Damon, in whom He is well pleased, and in whom no fault is found.
“Damon is alive and well in another dimension, in his new body, visiting with all his friends and others of his family who have already passed before him.”
Many others at the service expressed their grief at his loss.
Anyone with information about the case may call Laguna Beach Police at (949) 497-0371.