On Feb. 9, 2014, Bradford and Andra Sachs, a couple who’d weathered personal and professional storms to build businesses and a family together, were shot and killed in the early morning hours in their multistory mansion on Peppertree Bend in San Juan Capistrano.
“It was an absolutely brutal crime scene,” Ebrahim Baytieh, prosecutor in the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, told “The Real Murders of Orange County,” airing Nov. 8 at 8/7c on Oxygen.
Bullet casings found in the bedroom where the two were sleeping revealed that savagery. Between them, Brad, 57, and Andra, 54, were shot 15 times. And the couple, who had divorced years earlier but reconciled and were living together and raising their children, were not alone in the sprawling house.
The Sachs’ 8-year-old son, Landon, was also shot and critically injured during the incident, according to an Orange County Sheriff’s Department release on Facebook. The boy survived but was paralyzed. Their daughter Alexis, 17, had been shot at while in her bed but the bullet missed, while another daughter, Lana, 15, had not been shot at.
The oldest children, sons Myles, 21, and Ashton, 19, lived in Seattle, Washington, where they were enrolled in colleges. Mike Thompson, former investigator for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, vividly recalled notifying Ashton about the murders.
“He became hysterical on the phone,” Thompson told producers — so much so Thompson feared that Ashton might hurt himself.
In recordings of his parents’ funeral, Ashton can be seen choking up and sobbing as he said his mom “was always a hero to me.” He seemed to take solace in the fact that his parents will “be together forever.”
As the family grieved, police searched for a suspect. Who would have a motive to inflict such over-the-top violence? To understand that, a clearer picture was needed of Brad, who divided time between business and surfing, and Andra, a very ambitious entrepreneur.
Introduced at a computer convention, Brad and Andra tied the knot and launched a tech business called Flashcom. They became parents of four kids: Myles, Ashton, Alexis and Sabrina.
Tragedy hit when 16-month-old Sabrina drowned in 1999. The couple legally split that year but reunited a year later. In 2007, Andra, accompanied by Myles, went to Russia, where she adopted Lana and the teen girl’s younger brother, Landon.
Investigators found that the Saches had messy real estate and business deals and had made their fair share of enemies along the way. Professional associates became the focus of the investigation, but searches into business and civil disputes eventually led to dead ends.
However a new lead emerged when detectives reviewed a Sachs neighbor’s surveillance camera. They saw a light-colored car in the area of Peppertree Bend shortly before the 9-1-1 call after the Sachs murders.
A review of footage from a traffic camera near the Sachs residence revealed that it had captured the image of a white Prius speeding along at a time that coincided with the homicides on Feb. 9. Investigators reasoned the killer’s car could be a white Prius.
Ashton Sachs, detectives discovered, drove a white Prius.
With that realization, Ashton, the teenaged son, became a possible suspect in the double-homicide. A story of Ashton’s dark side, including depression and drug use as well as bitter conflicts with his parents, soon emerged.
“Cell phone records can be a treasure trove of information,” Baytieh told “The Real Murders of Orange County,” and on March 3, 2014, analysis of Ashton’s cell phone records cemented his status as prime suspect.
The phone documents provided a roadmap of sorts that told exactly where Ashton was on the night of the murder: They showed that he had driven from Seattle to Orange County.
Detectives also determined that Ashton had spoken to American Airlines that night. He purchased a seat on a flight from Orange County to Seattle that departed in the morning of Feb. 9, 2104. Ashton would have had enough time to be in Washington when Thompson called to break the terrible news about his parents.
Cameras showed that Ashton was dropped off by a taxi at John Wayne Airport before boarding a flight. He called a transport company to have his car moved from San Juan Capistrano to Seattle.
“He told us a bunch of baloney,” Baytieh said to producers. “He lied to us.”
After locating Ashton’s white Prius, investigators got a search warrant and found the murder weapon in the car.
On March 6, investigators went to Coronado, about an hour south of San Juan Capistrano, where Ashton was staying with his siblings. “Ashton didn’t know what we knew,” Thompson told “The Real Murders of Orange County.”
Chatty and forthcoming enough at first, Ashton clammed up when investigators challenged him. They asked him what he’d say if they told him that they had video of him at John Wayne Airport on the day of the murder. He was unresponsive.
On Thursday, March 6, 2014, following an intensive month-long investigation, Orange County Sheriff Homicide investigators detained Ashton in the San Diego area, they noted in a Facebook release. He was interviewed and subsequently arrested on murder charges.
In a taped interrogation, Ashton Sachs told police he “wasn’t normal” and that he “just walked up and started shooting.” He admitted, “I don’t know why I ruined my life … I just wanted to die.”
Detectives reasoned that Ashton had dropped out of school and knew he’d face the consequences from his parents, and that was his motive.
Ashton was sentenced to life without parole.
In the aftermath of the savage crimes that left his mom and dad dead and his brother paralyzed, Myles Sachs stepped up to take care of his family.
In an article tied to the fifth anniversary of the murders, Myles told an OC Register reporter in 2019 that to him, there was a third casualty on Feb. 9, 2014.
The way Myles and hs siblings saw it, the story noted, Ashton died when he killed his parents.
To learn more about the case, watch “The Real Murders of Orange County” on Oxygen.com.
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