Prosecutor: Love and concern fueled a heated battle

SANTA ANA — A prosecutor made clear that Robert Alan Lehmann loved his daughter and wanted her to receive the best possible education and treatment for her development disabilities.

But that love and concern ultimately fueled a heated battle between him and his ex-wife, whom he stands accused of shooting dead alongside her father in front of his Costa Mesa home, prosecutors asserted in opening statements Wednesday afternoon.

Lehmann, 37, is accused of two counts of murder. The charges include sentencing enhancements for lying in wait and for multiple murders. If convicted, he faces two life sentences in state prison without the possibility of parole.

On May 3, 2011, as he waited for Emily Ford, 32, to arrive and take custody of their 7-year-old special-needs daughter, Lehmann took antidepressants and drank beer before loading a magazine into his Beretta 9mm handgun, prosecutor Matt Murphy told jurors.

Murphy said Lehmann sent a text message to his ex-wife: "I've sent them away so they don't have to see."

She replied that she would soon arrive at the house on Santa Clara Circle.

When Ford arrived, Murphy alleged that Lehmann shot her in the chest and later shot her father, Russell Ford, through his arm raised in self-defense.

Lehmann then loaded another magazine and shot Russell Ford in the buttocks, back and back of the head, as the 62-year-old lay face down at the end of the driveway, Murphy said.

He then allegedly walked to where Emily Ford lay and emptied the magazine into the back of her head.

Lehmann returned to his house, where he called 911 then "collapsed" on his lawn and waited for police, defense attorney Jeremy Goldman said.

In a 911 recording played for jurors, Lehmann told a dispatcher that he took medication.

"I took an overdose," Lehmann said in a groggy voice. "I'm going to go ahead and lay down now."

When asked by the dispatcher whether the shooting victims needed paramedics, Lehmann replied, "No, they're dead."

Noticeably slimmer and grayer than at prior hearings, Lehmann sat in a beige suit and hunched over a yellow legal pad during the majority of the prosecution's statements, quickly jotting notes and studying the PowerPoint presentation shown to jurors.

Occasionally Lehmann would shake his head at the prosecution's assertions.

At the mention of his daughter, Lehmann closed his eyes, took deep breaths and turned away from jurors, dabbing his eyes with a handkerchief.

Both attorneys described Lehmann as a devoted father who poured money into medical evaluations, education and expensive testing to treat the girl's ADHD and a physical condition.

"You're never going to hear me say he didn't love his daughter," Murphy said. "But Emily also loved her daughter."

Emily Ford and Lehmann had battled in court over how to best educate the girl. Emily Ford, a special-education preschool instructional aide at Paularino Elementary School in Costa Mesa, felt their daughter was best served in public schools, while Lehmann preferred expensive private programs that emphasized treatment.

About 40 people filled the seats in the eighth-floor courtroom, many sniffling and wiping away tears after Murphy described Emily and Russell Ford's deaths.

Goldman said he thought Emily Ford's mother was caring for the child.

Lehmann's trial is scheduled to continue Thursday.

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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