The Real Murders of Orange County is investigating the brutal killing of Damon Nicholson, who was robbed and beaten to death in his home in Lake Forest, California, by Matthew Dragna and Jacob Quintanilla.
Damon was a 41-year-old party planner who worked at a Laguna Beach hotel. He was very popular in the community and well-loved by family, friends, and clients.
On October 24, 2009, a coworker went to Damon’s apartment after becoming concerned when he failed to show up at work. She found him lying on the living room couch, fatally wounded with a fractured skull. His apartment had been ransacked, and his computer, cell phone, and a number of other items had been stolen.
The police learned that Damon had been having a sexual relationship with an acquaintance, Larry Bradshaw, and it was Bradshaw who introduced Damon’s killer to him.
Damon often left a sliding door open at his apartment so Bradshaw could enter. On the night before Damon died, Bradshaw brought Matthew Dragna with him to the apartment, entering through the sliding door. The three men had sexual relations.
The following night Dragna returned to the apartment with his friend, Jacob Quintanilla, and again, entered through the sliding door. Unfortunately, the men also brought a baseball bat, which they used to bash Damon on the head.
The killers landed five blows on Damon’s head before they dumped his body on the couch and robbed the apartment.Watch the Latest on our YouTube Channel
Matthew Dragna left DNA at Damon Nicholson’s apartment
The police were able to link Dragna to the crime after they discovered his DNA on a trash can in Damon’s apartment. And the cops were able to piece together what had happened through his association with Bradshaw.
Quintanilla’s involvement was confirmed when cellphone data placed him in the area when Damon was killed.
In 2013, Dragna was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole. However, this conviction was overturned in 2016 when it emerged that the police had continued questioning Dragna after he had requested a lawyer.
Matthew Dragna and Jacob Quintanilla pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter
In October 2021, Dragna pleaded guilty to the lesser charges of voluntary manslaughter, burglary, and three counts of assault with a deadly weapon. His sentence was amended to 18 years and four months in prison.
At the same time, his co-defendant Quintanilla pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and burglary and was sentenced to seven years. By this stage, he had already spent ten years in prison and was released.
Damon’s sister, DeVonne Nicholson Blauser, spoke to Dragna at the sentencing, stating, “You are a murderer and a monster, and I hate you for that. I can say I have not forgiven you, nor can I say I ever will… Damon was/is a special person. Anyone who came in contact with him, he could make smile and laugh. You stole his laughter from us and left many holes in hearts.”
The Real Murders of Orange County airs Fridays at 9/8c on Oxygen.