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Murder trial underway for man accused in father’s beating death in Rancho Santa Fe

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(Courtesy)

A prosecutor told jurors last week that a man fatally beat and strangled his 71-year-old father in Rancho Santa Fe because the father would not provide his son with ongoing financial support.

But the defense said Leighton Dorey IV defended himself against his father, who had a history of anger issues and physical abuse toward during his son’s childhood years.

Testimony began Thursday, Aug. 29 in the trial of the younger Dorey, 42, who is charged with murder and a special-circumstance allegation of torture in the May 30, 2017, death of Leighton Dorey III. If convicted in Superior Court, the defendant faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In her opening statement, delivered in a Vista courtroom, Deputy District Attorney Patricia Lavermicocca said the defendant — who had been living in France for four years — abruptly showed up at his father’s home in May 2017.

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Dorey’s stepmother returned home on May 30 of that year to find her husband’s “bloody, brutally beaten, strangled and tortured body,” the prosecutor said.

His injuries included fractures to his spine, neck, and ribs, as well as a broken nose, broken jaw, skin torn from his hands and many of his teeth strewn about his body from the force of the beating.

The prosecutor said investigators tracked the defendant’s cellphone to Idyllwild in Riverside County, where his father also owned property. He was arrested there one day after his father’s death.

The elder Dorey’s blood was found inside the defendant’s Jeep, as well as on the insides of his pants, including inside one of his pockets, the prosecutor said.

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Lavermicocca described the defendant as a man who loved to pursue his passions — which included skiing, mountain biking and computers — and have his parents foot the bill.

She said that in 2013, the father told his son that he would no longer support him financially, something she said angered the defendant, particularly his father’s refusal to invest in Dorey’s proposal for “money-multiplying software” he was developing.

Soon after, the younger Dorey moved to France and allegedly asked for $7,000 a year from his father to be able to remain overseas. Lavermicocca said Dorey referred to this in an email as the victim’s “fatherly duties.” She also said Dorey was in need of money due to unpaid taxes he owed the IRS.

Dorey’s lawyer, Wil Rumble, said the prosecution’s theory of a financially motivated killing made no sense.

Rumble said his client was fairly stable financially, particularly because of money he was receiving regularly from his mother, the victim’s ex-wife. Rumble said she paid her son’s rent, gave him around $1,200 a month in spending money and upon his return to the U.S., purchased the Jeep that he was driving in May 2017.

Rumble called Dorey a man who “embraces his dreams,” and said it didn’t make sense that he “would throw that all away, the rest of his life, by perpetrating this senseless murder and torture.”

The attorney said his client had no reason to expect any financial support from his father, as the victim had made it clear years before his death that he would not provide any more money to his son.

Rumble also said that the victim’s past behavior supported the contention that he “exploded in anger” and attacked his son on the day of his death. The attorney characterized the elder Dorey as a “perfectionist” and a strict disciplinarian who would not hesitate to use corporal punishment on his son for unfinished chores, including beating Dorey with a wooden spoon and spanking him in front of dinner guests.

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Rumble said Dorey’s return to California was, in part, and attempt to reconcile with his father and repair parts of their strained relationship.


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