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83-year-old who killed 94-year-old roommate gets lifetime probation

October 26, 2012 | 12:59 pm

Photo: William Leo McDougall. Credit: Orange County district attorney's officeAn 83-year-old man who murdered his 94-year-old roommate while both were recovering from surgery at a Laguna Woods rehabilitation center was sentenced Friday to lifetime probation with a suspended sentence of 16 years.

William Leo McDougall pleaded guilty this year to murder for repeatedly bludgeoning Manh Van Nguyen in the head with a wooden rod in 2010 while the victim was sleeping at the Palm Terrace Healthcare Center in Laguna Woods.

McDougall mistakenly believed that Nguyen was singing loudly and disturbing his sleeping wife, who in reality was not present, according to a statement from the Orange County District Attorney’s office. McDougall became angry and got out of bed to silence Nguyen, the statement said.

Nguyen was taken to the hospital, where he died from blunt-force trauma to the head.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh, who prosecuted this case, said Nguyen's two brothers and grandson made clear they believed McDougall should spend the rest of his life in prison. But he said he recommended lifetime probation because "it was the right thing to do in this case."

He said the wishes of the victim's family is just one of several factors that prosecutors consider in making their sentence recommendations. Others included the nature of the crime, McDougall's lack of criminal record, advanced age and medical condition.

Baytieh said McDougall was suffering from the early stages of dementia and undergoing kidney dialysis three times a week.

"At the time of the murder, it's very clear to me that he had suffered some form of detachment from reality," he said.

McDougall's probation terms include eight months in jail, which he has already served, loss of 1st Amendment privacy rights and the requirement to disclose to all doctors and medical facilities his  criminal record, Baytieh said.

"It's a sad and unfortunate case," he said.

In a letter to the Nguyen family, McDougall’s wife apologized for the “unbelievable nightmare” and said her husband’s actions were incomprehensible.

“I offer my sincere condolences on behalf of the entire family and ask for forgiveness for Bill, even in spite of the terrible pain he has caused, only because the ‘real’ man I have known for over 58 years is not the one [who would] have done this horrible deed,” the wife wrote.

Nguyen’s wife and four adult children, who viewed a video interview and confession from the defendant in 2010, submitted a family letter to the district attorney and the court.

“We fully understand nothing can be done now that will bring our father back to us,” the letter said. “This is a real tragedy in which all parties involved have suffered tremendous losses and will continue to suffer for years to come. It is indeed a lose-lose situation for all.”

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-- Teresa Watanabe

Photo: William Leo McDougall. Credit: Orange County District Attorney's office

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