Slain teen was working undercover, mother says She says he felt pressured to make larger drug buys to avoid prosecution

March 23, 1998|By ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

SANTA ANA, Calif. -- A 17-year-old Southern California boy who was tortured and strangled at a suspected drug house spent the weeks before his death making undercover drug deals at the direction of Brea, Calif., police, according to his mother.

Cindy MacDonald of Yorba Linda, Calif., said through an attorney that although she gave written permission for her son, Chad MacDonald, to be used as a police informant, she told police repeatedly that she wanted to end the arrangement. She said her son told her that he felt pressured to make increasingly larger buys to avoid prosecution on methamphetamine charges.

Brea police denied that the boy's death was related to work he might have done as an informant for them but acknowledged that they occasionally use teens to make drug buys. The practice is opposed by many police agencies, judges and prosecutors, who argue that it places teens in danger, though no law prohibits it.

"If [the allegation] is accurate, it's not only inappropriate, it's unconscionable," said Bruce Malloy, administrative officer for the Orange County Juvenile Justice Commission. "That's unethical police work. I'm sure the commission would not view this lightly."

Brea Police Chief Bill Lentini wouldn't say whether the MacDonald youth ever worked for his detectives. He said that the teen was not working for the Brea police on the day he died and that Brea narcotics detectives were unfamiliar with his alleged killers.

"Regardless what Chad MacDonald was doing, 17 years old is much too young to pay this kind of price for a string of foolish mistakes," Lentini said. "But those mistakes weren't ours. They were Chad's."

Chad MacDonald had been an above-average student and avid snowboarder, but in the past year had become involved with drugs, friends said.

His mother's attorney, Lloyd Charton, said the youth became a police informant Jan. 6 when he was arrested with about a half-ounce of methamphetamine. He later was charged with possessing the drug with intent to sell, which carries a maximum sentence of four years in the California Youth Authority.

Juvenile Court presiding Judge Ronald Owen said typically a high school student such as MacDonald would be sentenced to six months' confinement in a high-intensity drug-rehabilitation program, or to Juvenile Hall.

"If Cindy had been told by the Brea police that her son would be put in a rehabilitation program she would have leaped at it and her son would be in that program and alive today," Charton said.

Cindy MacDonald called the district attorney's office Feb. 24 and told prosecutors about her son's work for police, Charton said. Prosecutors then told Brea detectives to stop using the teen as an informant, he said.

His body was found March 3 in a south Los Angeles alley, two days after he drove to a Norwalk home known to be frequented by drug traffickers. His girlfriend, who went with him, was raped and shot in the face. She survived.

Charton said the boy went to Norwalk hoping to set up a large-enough deal to satisfy Brea detectives. The boy told his mother that detectives said his three previous undercover buys were not enough to offset his arrest.

"Chad felt right up until the time he went to Norwalk if he could just make one more good buy that his legal problems would go away," Charton said. "He was directly introduced to the Norwalk people by people he told, 'I need a bigger quantity.' "

Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives investigating MacDonald's death would not say whether they are probing his work as a police informant as a possible motive for the slaying. Court documents allege that revenge was a motive.

Charton said the teen's mother was planning to have him move to the East Coast to live with a relative but was prevented from doing so because of the pending criminal charge in Orange County.

Pub Date: 3/23/98

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