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Mourners were humbled by the bravery of Ashton Sachs.
The bereaved 19-year-old fought back tears as he spoke at his parents’ funeral.
He described his perfect mum and dad: “I really do believe that they will continue to guide me throughout life,” Ashton said to the devastated congregation.
Just weeks earlier, an intruder had entered the multi-million-dollar family mansion and gunned down his sleeping parents, Brad and Andra, with an automatic rifle.
Their young son was left paralysed and their two daughters, who escaped unharmed, were deeply traumatised.
Ashton’s heartfelt eulogy brought comfort to a community reeling from the tragedy – so when police identified him as the gunman, it seemed incomprehensible.
Why would a young man who spoke so fondly of his parents want them dead?
Andra, 54, and Brad, 57, lived in the affluent community of San Juan Capistrano, California.
They had a hillside home worth £2 million, as well as a portfolio of properties – Andra was a driven business woman who had built up a fortune by making shrewd investments in real estate and technology.
Keen surfer Brad, who had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, helped out with the business worth a reported £65 million.
Back in 1999, the couple had been through a bitter divorce after their 16-month-old daughter Sabrina accidentally drowned in the family pool while being cared for by a nanny.
The tragedy had torn them apart. But once they had learnt to deal with the loss, the couple reunited. Family meant everything to them, so they moved back in together to raise their children.
They had two daughters, Lana, 15, and Alexis, 17, and three boys, Landon, eight, Ashton, 19, and Myles, 21.
Lana and Landon had been adopted from Russia and completed the family. Ashton and Myles had left home for college and lived 1,200 miles away in Washington.
It was in the early hours of 9 February 2014 that the unthinkable happened. An intruder wearing gloves and a beanie hat entered the Sachs’ family house through an unlocked door and went up to Andra and Brad’s bedroom where they were asleep.
He opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle and shot them multiple times at close range. Andra took 10 bullets. Brad, a dozen.
(Image: OC Sheriff’s Department)
The guman then went into Landon’s room and fired at the bed. Landon was left bleeding and crying hysterically that he couldn’t feel his legs.
The intruder then fired at Alexis, but as she hid under the covers, the bullet missed her.
Her sister Lana wasn’t shot at. When officers arrived, it was a bloodbath. Ashton and Myles were informed and they rushed to be with their younger siblings.
A distraught Ashton kept a vigil by Landon’s bedside. A bullet had pierced his spinal cord and he was paralysed from the chest down.
The tight-knit Sach’s family had been torn apart. Why had they been targeted? Nothing had been taken. Was it a home invasion that had gone wrong?
Ashton and Myles compiled a list of potential enemies. Andra did have legal proceedings going on, and there were people who thought she was ruthless when it came to business. Was this a twisted revenge?
At Andra and Brad’s funeral, Ashton gave the moving eulogy and spoke lovingly about his parents.
“They were just absolutely perfect together,” he said, “the perfect team.” He said his “incredible” mother had done more in her 54 years than most could do in 10 lifetimes. Ashton called her “my hero”.
“The most important thing to them was just the family,” he added. “They just loved all of us so much.”
Myles and Ashton started the wheels in motion to gain custody of their now orphaned siblings. Then, three weeks after the murders, investigators discovered a car parked at premises owned by the Sachs family. In the boot was the rifle used in the shooting. The white car belonged to Ashton.
“I was twisted”
On 6 March, Ashton was arrested and charged with premeditated murder. The announcement was met with disbelief.
From the outside, Ashton didn’t seem to fit the pattern of a violent, troubled loner capable of such an attack. He was intelligent, sociable and had no convictions.
When questioned, Ashton said his plan was to “shoot them and then kill myself”.
“I was like, not myself… I was something twisted,” he said.
Investigators discovered Ashton had bought the gun weeks before and he’d driven 18 hours non-stop to get to the family home, never wavering from his plan. Ashton said he’d paced for 10 minutes outside his parents’ bedroom before walking in and firing.
“My heart was beating really fast,” he said. After the murders, he left the car at one of the family properties, caught a cab to the airport and flew home ready to be informed by police of the attack.
Money seemed like the obvious motive, but Ashton dismissed that.
Instead, he suggested he was angry with his parents because they didn’t trust him and he thought that he was their least favourite child.
He said his mum didn’t care about him and didn’t take it seriously when he’d taken an overdose. Ashton accused his dad of excluding him and he blamed them both for his depression.
At the time of the murders, Ashton wasn’t going to classes. He spent his days playing video games and smoking cannabis. He’d even looked up things like ‘insanity defence’ and parole terms before the shootings. Ashton was a cold-blooded killer.
This year, Ashton made a surprise guilty plea, which meant there would be no sensational trial as predicted. He was sentenced in October.
The deputy district attorney said, “The defendant is a sociopath. He has no remorse, he has no empathy. All he cares about is himself.”
Brad’s sister Lisa made a statement.
“You had a choice, Ashton. You had 18 hours to turn that car around. You could have walked away from the family and made it on your own.” She added that she will never forgive him.
The judge sentenced Ashton to four life sentences, plus another 100 years. He’ll never be eligible for parole. Ashton, 22, was seen smiling in court and made no attempt to apologise for his actions.
Myles, 23, is now guardian to his orphaned siblings, including wheelchair-bound Landon, who is courageously adjusting to his life-changing injuries.
They’re a family determined to stay united, despite Ashton’s twisted attempt to destroy them from within.
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Last Updated Jun 10, 2017 6:57 PM EDT
SANTA ANA, Calif. — In an Orange County courthouse for22, for the brutal 2014 murder of his parents and the attempted murder of two of his siblings, Judge Gregg Prickett made it clear that “throw the book at him” is more than just an expression. Sachs would have to live at least four life times at which point he would still be facing more than 100 additional years in prison to fulfill Prickett’s sentence of four consecutive life terms with additional penalties for enhancements.
Sachs remained somber throughout the proceedings acting as his own counsel saying nothing more than periodic affirmations, “Yes, your honor.” None of Ashton’s four surviving siblings attended the hearing –and only one aunt, his father’s sister, Lisa McGowan, spoke.
“Every time I hear Elton John, I think of Brad (Sachs) teaching me to play guitar. When I hear Billy Idol I remember dancing at his wedding,” McGowan explained to Ashton as she recounted the pain of losing her brother, Ashton’s father – a music enthusiast and a successful technology entrepreneur.
Ashton was 19 years old attending community college in Seattle when he drove 18 straight hours through the night to his parents Orange County home arriving after 2 a.m. on Feb. 9. He wore a black beanie and gloves, carrying a 22 caliber automatic rifle capable of carrying at least 18 rounds of ammunition.
He entered his family’s million dollar, ocean-view mansion from an unlocked garage door quietly climbing the stairs of the home undetected. He riddled his parents, Brad, 57, and Andra Sachs, 54, with bullets as they slept peacefully in the bed of their seaside mansion on Peppertree Bend in tony San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
Prosecutor Mike Murray warned the Judge, “The defendant is a sociopath. He has no remorse, no empathy. All he cares about is himself. He is a manipulator.”
Judge Prickett explained to the court how he carefully weighed his sentencing decision with the law and the facts, highlighting the shameless brutality of Sachs’ actions – pointing out that he shot his father 10 times including in the face, and his mother 12 times. Then Prickett acknowledged how Ashton needlessly shot his brother, an “innocent 8-year-old child in his sleep,” and similarly fired a shot at his sleeping younger sister who was unharmed.
After an initial plea of not guilty in May of 2014, Ashton surprised prosecutors and family alike when a few months ago he dismissed his public defender and decided to represent himself in court. Then in another strange twist he called a special hearing on Sept. 20, and out of the blueto all charges against him: two counts of murder for each of his parents, and two counts of attempted murder for firing at his sister Alexis, 19, and his brother Landon, 11, who was left paralyzed from the chest down.
At Friday’s hearing a representative read a prepared statement from Ashton’s brother Myles Sachs which thanked police and prosecutors but completely ignored addressing Ashton or his actions. At the beginning of this statement was the only time Ashton seemed for a moment that he had to contain himself from an emotional outbreak.
Ashton’s aunt, McGowan the sister of Brad Sachs, challenged Ashton in her victim impact statement. She told Ashton that she held him responsible for his choices.
Sachs gazed at McGowan as she spoke, his eyes reddening initially as she addressed him directly. McGowan demanded Ashton consider the consequences of his younger brother Landon’s plight explaining how the doctors presented a grim prognosis of suffering for the life of a paralyzed youth.
McGowan chided Ashton for the gall and hypocrisy to speak at his parents’ funeral days after the murder at which time he was not a suspect.
Ashton eulogized his parents despite his awful secret, “I remember in fifth grade. We had to do a report on who our hero was to us, but even as a 13-year-old boy, I knew right away my hero was my mom. I did my report on her.”
“He really pulled the wool over everybody’s eyes,” case agent Justin Montano, the Orange County Sheriffs Department (OCSD) Investigator who was responsible for the murder investigation told CBS News in an interview. At the funeral, Ashton cried and professed his love for both Andra and Brad. OCSD Investigators first saw the funeral tape on the “48 Hours” broadcast in Oct. 2015.
in 2015, McGowan said she longed to know why Ashton would do such a thing. In court on Friday he chose not to offer a public explanation.
One month after the murder when Investigator Montano interviewed Ashton on video tape the investigator asked what was going through his mind.
“I couldn’t even remember,” Ashton answered. “It was just a rush… I was not myself. I don’t know. I was something twisted.”
Initial speculation was that Ashton murdered his parents to inherit their millions. Two of Ashton’s aunts, his mother Andra’s sisters, alleged that Ashton had been fascinated by the Menendez brothers’ murders — a high-profile 1989 Beverly Hills case where two brothers murdered their parents and went on a spending spree with their parents’ fortune.
However, the OCSD detectives don’t think money was the primary motive in the Sachs case. Instead, they say that during that police interview Ashton explains he was jealous for his parent’s love and felt rejected by them.
“I think it was revenge for his sense of being slighted by the family,” Montano’s partner, Investigator Mike Thompson told CBS News in an interview. “When you look into it and peel the onion of this case, it comes down to his resentment of his parents, his resentment of his brothers, and … that’s what drove him to commit these murders,” Investigator Montano told CBS News.
Sachs sat at his sentencing wearing a white yarmulke, the Jewish religious skullcap. White yarmulke’s are traditional for the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement which occurred two days prior to the hearing – the day when Jews ask God for forgiveness of their sins. In court Sachs asked for nothing, not forgiveness from his family members, nor mercy from the Judge.
Sachs declined the Judge’s offer to comment. If Ashton’s white yarmulke was truly a symbol of his gesture for atonement, then his Aunt, McGowan, concluded her remarks with a response.
“I am told by friends and family to forgive you… Here’s my choice: I can’t forgive you.”