Father's trial begins in son's Delhi shooting death

vpatton@mercedsunstar.comJuly 23, 2013 

— Attorneys presented opening statements Wednesday in the trial of a 68-year-old man accused of fatally shooting his son after an argument in Delhi.

Daniel McDonald is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of his son, Donald McDonald, 46, on April 9, 2011, at the home they shared in the 11000 block of Griffith Avenue in Delhi.

Deputy District Attorney Thomas Min, the prosecutor in the case, told jurors the argument between father and son erupted in the back yard over a chain saw, which the defendant said contained too much gasoline.

Words became heated, leading to the victim pushing his father and asking to be left alone, according to Min. The defendant went into the house and retrieve a rifle, threatening to shoot his son, Min said.

The victim's wife, who was at the scene, wanted to leave the premises. Min said her husband opened a door to let her in the house to retrieve her purse.

According to police, Daniel McDonald then fatally shot his son inside the house. In a call placed to 911 from a friend of the victim, the defendant can be heard in the background, admitting to the crime, Min said.

Defense attorney Frank C. Carson, however, said his client wasn't the aggressor, claiming the shooting was self-defense.

Carson said his client worked 35 years at the Turlock Irrigation District, providing for his son and family. Although Carson said the defendant loved his son "unconditionally," he said the victim had a "vicious, uncontrollable temper."

On occasions prior to the shooting, Daniel McDonald had suffered beatings at the hands of his son, Carson claimed.

Carson added that his client was once beaten so badly by his son, he was unable to leave the house. "The picture you are going to see is not of a murderer, but a long-suffering father," Carson said.

Carson told jurors there's no evidence the argument happened over a chain saw. But Carson did say his client did not want his son's wife at the house.

According to Carson, on the day of the shooting, his client's son had grabbed his father by the throat, upset about something the elder McDonald had said to his son's wife.

The defense maintains Daniel McDonald went inside the home and locked all the doors to keep his son out. Carson claims the victim managed to get inside, going through the house "like a tornado," and charged at his father.

Carson said his client picked up the rifle from a table and shot his son. He said results from ballistics tests will back up his client's story.

The defendant is also charged with the enhancement of using a rifle in the commission of the crime.

The trial is expected to take 10 days in Judge Ronald Hansen's courtroom.

Daniel McDonald remains in custody at the Merced County Jail. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsunstar.com.

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