A 53-year-old man raped and strangled an acquaintance in her bedroom in Buena Park 34 years ago, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday, while the defendant’s attorney said the evidence points to the victim’s father as the killer.
Daniel Edward McDermott is charged with murder with a special circumstances allegation of murder during a rape.
A prior trial ended with a mistrial in July 2016 of when jurors failed to reach a verdict, voting 11-1 for guilt.
McDermott is accused of killing 18-year-old Gehmine “Janean” Chandler on Jan. 11, 1988. On the night of the killing, she went house hunting with her father, Thomas Edward Patraw Sr., who she was living with at the time in his home at 8750 Vestavia Ave. Patraw was selling the home and Chandler was packing up her things to move back to Texas.
The two had dinner at a Sizzler, returned home and spent time in a Jacuzzi before she took a shower and prepared for bed. She then got a call from a friend in Texas, who was planning to fly to Orange County so he could help her drive back to Texas.
At about 1 a.m., Patraw “heard a scream and thought it was a cat and went back to sleep,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Seton Hunt said. Two neighbors also heard the scream, Hunt said.
Patraw woke again at about 5 a.m. and saw a stereo speaker was missing, so he went to check on his daughter, didn’t see her right away under covers and looked for her elsewhere in the house, Hunt said. When he returned to her room he saw her “lifeless body” and her arm dangling over the bed, Hunt added.
There were no signs of forced entry, and a side door she often used was unlocked, Hunt said. Police questioned her boyfriend and ex-boyfriends but the case went cold, Hunt said.
In 2009, law enforcement reopened its investigation.
“There’s a lot of DNA on the bed spread” on the victim’s bed, Hunt said. “It’s messy, folks,” he told jurors.
An ex-boyfriend’s DNA was found on the sheets, but his DNA was not found on the victim’s body, Hunt said. A small speck from Thomas Edward Patraw Jr. — her half-brother — was on her nightgown, Hunt said.
But for years as investigators kept ruling out suspects, the one whose DNA was not examined was McDermott’s, Hunt said. When authorities asked for a genetic sample from him it matched DNA found in the victim and on her right wrist, which had a scratch on it, Hunt said.
McDermott told investigators in the days following the murder that he was acquainted with Chandler through his friend Sean Falk, who dated her, Hunt said. McDermott told police that she asked him to steal a car stereo for her, but he refused, Hunt said.
The day before the killing, McDermott said he ran into her in the neighborhood and they had some small talk.
When police questioned him again in 2010 in New Mexico where he had relocated, the defendant denied ever dating the victim. When detectives flew out to question him again in October 2012, he again denied ever sleeping with the victim, and investigators retrieved the DNA swab from him, Hunt said.
“I anticipate at the end of the trial the rape and murder will point to one person, the defendant,” Hunt said.
McDermott’s attorney, Chuck Hasse, told jurors, “What this case is about is a prosecution team that’s not dealing with all of the evidence … or accepting the truth of the evidence.”
He added, “The evidence of sex is not evidence of murder … Not admitting to sex is not admitting to murder.”
Hasse said there was “compelling evidence that points to Thomas Patraw Sr. and Thomas Patraw Jr. in this case.”
The defense attorney said the victim’s father was not involved in his daughter’s upbringing and was only recently acquainted with her before her death. The victim was conceived when Patraw had an affair with his boss’ wife, Hasse said. Chandler was ultimately adopted by Dr. Raymond Chandler when her mother married him after moving back to Texas from California, Hasse said.
Hasse also said the evidence of semen in the victim and its “age” will be a “huge issue in this case.”
Chandler did not learn until years later that she was adopted. When she was having issues with her mother when she was 17 she asked her biological father if she could live with him and he agreed, Hasse said. Patraw was experiencing “a lot of stressers” in his life when his daughter moved in, Hasse said. He was “underwater” on his mortgage and was being sued to pay child support for his son, Hasse said.
Also, Chandler and her father did not get along.
“She’s burning up the phone bills… she’s messy and he’s neat… and she was not going to school,” Hasse said.
She was also borrowing his car without permission and breaking into his room, so “the father-daughter experiment ends after three months.”
Chandler went to live with another family friend from November to June 1987 and inherited about $13,000 from her adoptive father when he died, Hasse said.
When the victim again asked to move in with her father he agreed and opened a joint bank account for her inheritance, and then a week later took out $1,000 for himself, which became a thorn of contention between the two, Hasse said.
Chandler spent the inheritance quickly, buying a car that she later totaled in a crash, Hasse said.
When she got evicted from an apartment she lived in with a boyfriend she ended up “couch surfing” with another friend until she asked again to return to living with her father, Hasse said. The two made a deal that it would be a short-term living arrangement with her agreeing to move back to Texas as he sold his house, and he promised to pay her back the $1,000, the attorney said.
“But those last 11 days the drama didn’t stop,” Hasse said.
Chandler hid his credit card bills so he wouldn’t see money she owed on a rental car she got after he car was totaled in the crash, Hasse said.
A couple of days before she was killed, she saw McDermott in the neighborhood and asked him to come by to say goodbye before she left town, Hasse said. That night she went out with a boyfriend, who still was unaware she was leaving town, Hasse said.
A day before the killing, McDermott and Chandler had sex, Hasse said.
On the night of her death, after they got home from the restaurant, she said she got a call from a friend and was going to meet him, but the friend later told investigators he never called her, so it’s a mystery where she went, Hasse said.