Investigation Discovery’s ‘Vengeance: Killer Millionaires: Trust Fund Terror’ chronicles how the Ewell family was brutally executed inside their Fresno County, California, residence in late April 1992. The investigators set their sights clearly on the persons of interest from the very beginning of the probe and had them under strict surveillance till they gathered enough evidence to apprehend them. It makes the viewers wonder how the authorities solved the gruesome triple homicide, with the article dealing with the different aspects of the probe.
How Did The Ewells Die?
Dale Alan Ewell was born to Austin Bert Ewell and Mary Rebecca (née Thompson) Ewell in Oxford in Butler County, Ohio, on October 11, 1932. He was an Air Force veteran turned multi-millionaire businessman who specialized in the sale of small airplanes with his company, Western Piper Sales, Inc. Glee Ethel (née Mitchell) Ewell was born to James John Mitchell and Glee (née Irvin) Mitchell in Chicago in Cook County, Illinois, on January 13, 1935. Dale and Glee married in 1961 and had two children — Tiffany Ann and Dana James Ewell.
Tiffany was born in Fresno on May 1, 1967, and was a graduate student at Fresno State University. Dana graduated from San Joaquin Memorial High School in 1989 and earned a finance degree from Santa Clara University (SCU). The Ewells led a private life in their 10,000-square-foot home on the bluffs of the San Joaquin River in Fresno County, California. Glee dedicated much of her life to charitable endeavors and community service. During the 1950s, she briefly served as a Spanish translator for the CIA.
However, she took on a role as a member of the State Bar of California committee responsible for assessing aspiring judges. The senior Ewells had significant holdings in the stock market and local farmland. Though they enjoyed financial prosperity, the family led a moderately humble life and abstained from ostentatiously displaying their wealth, amounting to around $7–8 million. Hence, it was shocking when the bodies of Dale, Glee, and Tiffany were found in their home on East Park Circle Drive on April 21, 1992.
Tiffany was discovered face down on the kitchen floor, having been shot once in the back of the head with the bullet exiting her forehead. Dale was found face down in the hallway, having been shot once in the back of the neck with the bullet below his right eye. Glee was located in the office, lying partially on her back and partially on her left side, having sustained four gunshot wounds, including one just below the eye. All three victims showed signs of rigor mortis and lividity, and it appeared that they were shot where they fell.
Who Killed The Ewells?
During the 1992 Easter weekend, Dale, Glee, and their adult children spent time at their family beach house in Pajaro Dunes near Watsonville. Afterward, Dana went to his girlfriend’s home, and they returned to their business school together. Court records showed Glee and Tiffany had left the beach house shortly after Dana did. Meanwhile, Dale arrived at Fresno Air Terminal just before 3:30 pm and at around 4:00 pm. That was the last time anyone heard from the Ewells, and Dana became concerned when he failed to contact his family at home.
When Dale did not come to work for two consecutive days, his business manager contacted Dana on April 21 to contact the Ewell neighbors. After the bodies were discovered, the investigators hypothesized the killer had been lying in wait for the family to return. They noted Dale had purchased the box of ammunition and a 9-millimeter Browning pistol in 1971. The detectives found the gun missing and deduced it was the murder weapon. The killer retrieved the discarded shell casings, indicating the execution had been planned carefully.
Although there were no signs of a physical struggle, the house had been thoroughly searched and disordered, giving the appearance of a burglary. However, law enforcement officials determined that the burglary had been deliberately arranged, and the victims were killed for a specific motive. Notably, there were no indications of forced entry, and all doors and windows were secured, except that the front and back doors were left unlocked when sheriff’s personnel arrived. Even the alarm, typically armed, had been deactivated.
The police explored potential motives behind the crime, including a troubled real estate deal and past associations with a convicted drug smuggler. However, they were not considered relevant, and the authorities began looking into the possibility of an inside job. Dana’s alibi for the time of the murders, spent with his girlfriend in San Francisco, initially cleared him of suspicion. However, he was again considered a person of interest in the case when the police learned about his curiosity about his parents’ will after their deaths.
Dana’s parents had set up a legal trust that restricted access to their assets until specific ages, but he was an immediate beneficiary of over $300,000 in life insurance payments. Joel Patrick Radovcich, a college friend of Dana, abruptly dropped out of college and raised suspicion due to his preoccupation with weapons and explosives. The authorities began to focus on Dana and Joel after the duo occupied the Ewell family home shortly after the murders, making numerous cash purchases and using a complex communication system.
The police kept them under surveillance, even overhearing incriminating statements from Joel on a recorded phone call. Forensic examination determined the murder weapon was a premium 9-mm specialized rifle made by Feather Industries in Trinidad, Colorado. Company records indicated that Ernest Jack Ponce, a friend of the Radovcich family, purchased such a rifle shortly before the murders occurred. Although Ernest acknowledged buying the rifle for Joel, he claimed he was unaware of its intended use for criminal purposes.
Where Are Joel Radovcich and Dana Ewell Now?
Ernest further compounded his involvement by concealing evidence following the murders, effectively making him an accessory to the crime. Facing the possibility of criminal charges, he cooperated with the authorities to receive immunity from prosecution. He agreed to serve as a witness against Dana and Joel, who were arrested in March 1995. The trial began in mid-1998, with Dana’s legal counsel blaming the murders on Joel and advocating for their client’s innocence. Meanwhile, Joel’s defense focused on avoiding the death penalty.
Both were convicted of three counts of first-degree murder and faced harsher sentencing due to aggravating factors, including multiple victims, profit-motivated murder, and premeditated murder. However, the jury could not reach a unanimous decision during the sentencing phase, leading to a penalty phase mistrial. The judge imposed a default sentence of life imprisonment without parole on July 20. Dana, 52, remains imprisoned at the Protective Housing Unit of California State Prison, Corcoran. Joel, 53, is serving his sentence at the California Health Care Facility.