Prosecutor: Deaths caused by 'tantrum of a controlling man'

SANTA ANA — A man accused of killing his ex-wife and her father last year is a "control freak" who was cognizant of his actions, an Orange County prosecutor told jurors Thursday.

Robert Alan Lehmann's 911 call on May 3, 2011 — the day Emily Ford and her father, Russell Ford, were killed — was "crystal clear" in describing that he shot them, Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy said during closing statements in an eighth-floor courtroom.

He said Lehmann's actions were deliberate, noting that he loaded expanding hollow-point bullets into his gun before the Fords arrived at his Costa Mesa home.

Both attorneys focused on the amount of prescription drugs Lehmann, 37, took before the Fords came to get the 7-year-old daughter Emily Ford had with Lehmann while they were married.

Lehmann's attorney, Jeremy Goldman, said testimony showed a man who had overdosed on pills and suggested that doses from days prior had compounded to have a sleepwalking or unconscious effect on Lehmann.

Before the killing, Lehmann showed no signs of aggressive behavior or violence; this only further indicated that he was in a "scrambled" mind set, Goldman said.

Earlier testimony showed 40 pills were safe in one day's use of clonazepam, a drug intended to make the user relax, and Lehmann took 26 by his own estimation, Murphy said.

Murphy outlined the side effects in a PowerPoint presentation, noting "irritability does not mean horrendous bloody murder" and said the bottles of beer found near the door demonstrated a "textbook example" of someone lying in wait to attack.

Both attorneys also paid special attention to Lehmann's state of mind on the day of the killings.

"There's nothing sudden at all about this killing at all," Murphy said. "He wants you to think, 'Oh my God! It's the worst day ever.'"

But the prosecutor told jurors that each of them had a bigger disappointment in the last month than Lehmann did when Emily Ford was given temporary custody of the girl.

The Fords' deaths were a "result of a tantrum of a controlling man who wanted things exactly as he wanted them," Murphy said.

But the loss of custody, whether temporary or permanent, and the possibility of his special-needs daughter not attending a specialized UC Irvine program was devastating for Lehmann, Goldman told jurors.

"It's not a competition of who loved or who cared for [the 7-year-old daughter] more," Goldman said. "There's no doubt Emily was a loving mother. … [Lehmann] simply wanted his daughter to thrive."

In court, Lehmann appeared transformed since the earlier hearings, noticeably slimmer and grayer, as he sat in a baggy beige suit. Earlier in the week, Lehmann took the stand to tell jurors about his recollection of events on the day when the Fords were killed.

While on the stand, Murphy said Lehmann "sparred" with him and repeatedly asked him to rephrase questions that Goldman described as leading. Lehmann repeatedly referred to him as "sir" — a rehearsed line, Murphy said.

Goldman said the formality was a custom of an institutionalized man who has sat in jail since his arrest.

"It's not easy to testify," Goldman said, pointing to the fact that his client forgot the month of his daughter's birthday.

The testimony was Lehmann's attempt at getting the last word now that Emily Ford was silenced, Murphy said.

"Folks, he was wrong," Murphy told the jurors. "You have the last word."

The case is now in the jury's hands.

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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