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Inherit Murder: The True Story of Family Murderer Dana Ewell

I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.

The Ewell family

The Ewell family

Dale Ewell hadn’t made his fortune in life by being a pushover. Growing up during the Great Depression, Dale knew the value of a dollar and the hard work that went into earning each and every single one of them. By 1992, he’d earned a reputation as a strict and often ruthless businessman who had earned millions by selling small aircraft through his business, Western Piper Sales, Inc.

Dale’s wife, Glee, once a teacher, had spent the years of their children's youth as a Martha Stewart–like homemaker and civic activist. As a stay-at-home mother, she had been responsible for the child-rearing duties, and Dale had been the disciplinarian. It was later said that Dale ran his home with the same force and determination he did his business.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (KJV). Such was not the case for Dale’s youngest child and only son, Dana Ewell.

Dana Ewell

Dana Ewell

Spoiled Little Rich Boy

From the time Dana Ewell could talk, he’d had a knack for fabricating tales on just about anything—from where he was born to parental abuse. No one or no thing was safe from being the target of Dana’s lies.

As Dana grew, his storytelling would become a major contention between himself and his father. What may have been cute from a towheaded child wasn’t so funny when spewing from the mouth of an obnoxious teenager. Nor was the sense of entitlement Dana wore like an extra layer of skin.

Dale had grown up during the hardest economic times America had ever known, and as a result, he didn’t have a lot of material things as a child. He'd tried to rectify that, being a self-made millionaire, by spending money lavishly on his children. Dale made sure they had the finest things money could buy.

When Dana went off to college at Santa Clara University, he did so in designer clothing and driving a BMW. At SCU, he regaled classmates with stories about being a stockbroker at 18 and the current owner of a company that grossed $2.7 million per year.

Dana’s lies would be interpreted by some as those of an ambitious young man. Yes, Dana was indeed ambitious, but he wasn’t willing to work to make those stories a reality.

The Biggest Loser

One of Dana’s college pals who believed the lies that spewed forth from the spoiled little rich boy was Joel Radovcich.

Joel was fascinated by Dana, by his wealth and success and, most especially, the ease with which Dana was able to get the hottest girls. Joel, who was rather weasel-like in appearance, was extremely introverted. He lived in a fantasy world that co-existed with real-life drugs and video games. Dating was a foreign concept to Joel.

His friendship with Dana changed it all. Although he still didn’t get the caliber of girls that his friend did, Joel was having a blast at parties and meeting some of the campus’ more elite students.

In 1992, Dana asked Joel for a favor. Joel knew he couldn’t say no. Otherwise, the good times were sure to end.

Dead on Arrival

Dana enjoyed the luxurious lifestyle his parents provided. So much so, in fact, he wanted it all to himself. Now. Not after his parents were dead; that could be decades.

Or could it?

Dana approached Joel with a surefire plan to become a millionaire. Knowing family members were always at the top of the suspect list, Dana would secure an airtight alibi while Joel acted as a hitman.

On Easter Sunday, April 19, 1992, Dale and Glee, along with their daughter Tiffany, headed home from a holiday weekend at their beach house in Pajaro Dunes. They had no idea what (or who) awaited them inside their Fresno home.

Joel had been lying in wait for hours—on a sheet of plastic, to avoid leaving clues—when he heard the family car pull into the drive. Glee and Tiffany had driven to the beach house and were the first to arrive home. They had barely made it in the door when they were shot with a silenced 9 mm assault rifle.

Dale had opted to fly one of his small planes to the beach and arrived home 30 minutes later than his wife and daughter. As he entered the home, before he even realized what had happened, Dale was also killed by Joel.

When the triple homicide was discovered two days later, Dana, as he expected, was a primary suspect, but he wasn’t worried. Dana had been vacationing with his girlfriend and her FBI father 200 miles away from the scene. It was certainly a good alibi, and detectives—whose intuition told them the college kid was responsible—were stumped.

Smooth Liar, Bad Actor

For the next three years, Dana would play a sly little game of cat-and-mouse with detectives, but eventually he would find himself staring at life behind bars from the paws of police detectives.

Dana had seemed unconcerned by his family’s murder since the beginning. Although people’s reaction to such a tragedy can vary greatly, Dana’s immediate questions about his parents’ estate went against the usual behavior.

The detectives also found it suspect that Dale’s three brothers were more than willing to point the finger at their nephew. Even before the triple funeral for the Ewell family, Dale's relatives hired attorneys to block any attempts by Dana to collect his inheritance.

Investigators were catching up to him, his extended family was accusing him of murdering his family and fighting for the family estate, yet no court filings or finger-pointing could stop Dana from living it up. He continued to spend with wild abandon, lavishing his FBI-agent's-daughter girlfriend with gifts—even paying some of her college tuition.

Dana didn’t know the meaning of the word "job," so where was all the money coming from? Diligent detectives, knowing the motivation for the murders undoubtedly centered around money, continued to dig.

Their efforts finally paid off when they discovered that, for three years, Dana had bilked his ailing maternal grandmother’s account of almost $400,000. By the time investigators made their discovery, the elderly woman was left with only $2,000 to provide for her extended care in a nursing home.

Scamming Grandma was proof to police that they were right about Dana Ewell. No one was safe from the greedy bastard.

Time and again, police had questioned Dana, his girlfriend Monica, and even his friend Joel, but the trio continued to deny any knowledge, and investigators had nothing but circumstantial evidence.

In every murder conspiracy, there is always a weak link. In this case, it was Joel. Whether it was a guilty conscience or an attempt to impress a friend, Joel eventually spilled the beans.

The breaking of the dam began with Joel's old high school friend, Ernest “Jack” Ponce. Ponce wasn’t someone to bring home to Mama. He was a petty troublemaker. He'd called upon his old buddy to inquire about purchasing a lockpicking kit.

Police were eager to solve the Ewell’s homicide case, which was growing colder by the minute, and eagerly listened to the story Ponce had to tell—one of helping Joel dispose of the murder weapon and silencer. It seemed they were on their way to solving the triple homicide.

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Unfortunately, it would seem it was all for nil when Ponce refused to take a lie detector test, but he redeemed himself when he allowed police to eavesdrop on a telephone conversation he had with Joel.

Joel Radovcich

Joel Radovcich

When police visited Dana’s dorm room at SCU to tell him they believed Joel Radovcich had murdered his parents, Dana said nothing, but his color-drained face spoke volumes. Investigators watched from afar as, once it seemed the lawmen were gone, Dana and Monica, who had been visiting, rushed to a nearby phone and placed a call.

The recipient of the call: Joel Radovcich.

Life Instead of Lifestyle

In the days following their announcement to Dana, police worked doggedly to build a solid case against Dana and Joel. In 1995, they arrested Dana on three counts of first degree murder. Joel Radovcich, his brother Peter Radovcich, and Ernest Jack Ponce were also arrested.

Peter and Ponce received immunity in exchange for their testimony. On May 27, 1998, a jury found Joel and Dana guilty of the first-degree murders of Dale, Glee, and Tiffany. Both men received three life sentences with no chance for parole.

Where Are They Now?

Dana Ewell is incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison, a fitting place for a cold-blooded family killer as it’s one of California’s most dangerous prisons. Fellow prisoners at Corcoran include some of America’s most notorious murderers, like Charles Manson and Juan Corona.

Joel Radovcich is currently incarcerated at the Mule Creek State Prison in Lone, California.

Ernest Jack Ponce became a member of the California Bar in 2007. His practice is presently in Fullerton, California.

Glee Mitchell, Dana’s grandmother, passed away on March 14, 1999.

Although Monica Zent, founder of Zent Law Group in Sunnyvale, California, was perfectly content to allow Dana’s blood money to pay for her law school education, she wasn’t too thrilled when someone contacted the law firm for which she worked and exposed her secret past associations. She even went so far as to sue the messenger, leaving behind a permanent Court of Appeals opinion available to anyone and everyone with access to an internet connection.


© 2016 Kim Bryan


Andre Patton on March 28, 2020:

Im not saying either parent is responsible for being murdered by their own children but theres an bbn old saying " be careful who you lay down with and have a baby because the spirit of the mother or father will be dominant in that child" smh

Andy on September 24, 2019:

180 IQ my foot.. monica's father was responsible for protecting his daughter.

texaslantana on December 13, 2018:

A lockpick order was discovered by a police detective called to the company and asking what cost $431. The police were told it was an automatic lock pick. The Ewell grandmother's life was thought to be at risk since there were possible plans to break into her room and murder her for monetary reasons. The nursing home said Dana had insisted Grandmother had a room with an outside door.

Detective Souza described Joel basically as an unkempt young man using a skateboard for transportation. Souza indicated that Joel had been kicked out of the dorm for stealing the furniture. He tells a story how you didn't want to follow Joel in a cafeteria lunch line because he would pick up a piece of lettuce and then, throw in back in the bowl.

We might consider thanking the Lord for the fabulous detectives that captured these dangerous criminals. Det. Souza seemed to really take heart for the loss of Tiffany when you see his interviews.

texaslantana on December 13, 2018:

Apparently, the friend, Jack ordered a lock pick for Joel and it was found out by the police. The Ewell grandmother's life was at risk since there were plans to break into her room and murder her for monetary reasons.

Bl on March 09, 2018:

The description of Joel is completely different from the Joel I knew at SCU. Joel was my neighbor for a year. He was not weasel like in appearance nor was he shy.

Tru on February 24, 2018:

I especially feel bad for the sister.

Lucy chiconni on November 05, 2017:

I'm sick and tired of these greedy men ,menendez brothers were never abused whatsoever they had to claim abuse to keep them from electric chair ,please read about his lies on Norma novellis bok the private diary of lyle menendez he's a lose weirdo sociopathic liar just like his younger brother,they were criminals causing Jose and kitty grief .They burglured homes all over Calabasas area,the parents were afraid of them Jose tapes of those 2 monsters disappeared phone conversations between his sons lyle and erik in which they were plotting the cold blooded killing,kitty didn't want them having keys to house at all,they were stressing kitty and jose ,fuck those 2 asshole the world has to feel bad for 2 liars murderers monsters they are where they belong ,they ambushed the parents lyle took one last shot at his mother because he didn't want her to live to enjoy joses money ,he told someone in prison my parents didn't do anything to us ,he also said he loved the killing the planning ,he and erik both got turned on by killing them ,the blood landed on there ugly faces ,nasty ugly murderers

Suzie from Carson City on September 23, 2017:

Kim...There are far too many of these stories about the age-old vice of GREED. Despite how these crimes are thought up, carried out and tried, the guilty parties find themselves locked up for life w/o parole. I cannot recall a single murder of wealthy individuals, where the investigations, ultimately failed to find, try and punish the perpetrators.

I see there's a special coming soon on cable TV about none other than the poor, abused "Menendez Brothers." Now, that was a heart wrenching case. I'm looking forward to seeing the movie.

Another interesting yet tragic story, Kim. Paula

(You need to replace your's been REMOVED)

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