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Shadow of Death

A stunning new twist in the case of a couple shot dead in bed -- it looked like a hit job, but was it?

Produced by Chuck Stevenson, Alec Sirken, Greg Fisher and Judy Rybak

It was a crime that shocked the rich, quiet, wealthy community of San Juan Capistrano. A wealthy businesswoman, Andra Sachs, 54, and her ex-husband, Brad, 57, were asleep in their hillside mansion when a killer armed with an assault-type rifle crept in to a the family’s multimillion dollar hillside mansion and opened fire with a barrage of bullets.

Meghann Cuniff, a reporter for the Orange County Register, was one of the first reporters on the scene.

“What happened up there was shocking. It was eerie,” she told “48 Hours.”

“This is what the Sachs’ 17-year-old daughter told authorities about that night,” Cuniff continued, reading from a grand jury transcript. “’I heard somebody slamming open my door and then I heard a gunshot.”

Jack Leonard is a Los Angeles Times reporter and a CBS News consultant.

“A shooter snuck into the house, went up to the top floor where Andra and Brad were in bed and opened fire,” he explained.

The San Juan Capistrano mansion of Andra and Brad Sachs

The San Juan Capistrano home of Brad and Andra Sachs

Orange County Register/Corbis

It was a home invasion of the most nightmarish kind. Nothing was stolen. It was just killing for the sake of killing.

“Alexis says she hid in her bed until she heard her little brother crying,” Cuniff said. “’He was crying for help. He was bleeding. He couldn’t feel his legs.’”

Who would attack a family, crippling an 8-year-old child and unleashing hell on his sleeping parents?

“’I went into my parent’s bedroom,’” Cuniff read aloud. “The D.A. says, ‘Were you able to talk to them?’ She says, ‘no.’”

“They’d been shot multiple times in the face,” Leonard said. “The shooter had left no room for these people not to be killed … the scene was a mess.”

Monte Burghardt is a realtor in Orange County who did business with Andra Sachs.

“I was just stunned,” he told “48 Hours” correspondent Troy Roberts. “... this is unbelievable. It stunned the whole community.”

“This is the OC; this is the Orange County Riviera as it’s called. The finest beaches, the finest lifestyle of the rich and famous. We’re living and loving the American dream on the edge of the USA, and that’s in South Orange County. It’s beautiful all year round,” he told Roberts.

Burghardt and Andra made some money together, but she was in charge.

“She worked out, she was buxom … she was very feminine. But she was like Xena princess warrior. She was like an Amazon,” he said.

Nina Lifshultz was one of Andra’s closest friends.

“Andra was bigger than life… she was driven to succeed and wanted the same for her friends and family,” Lifshultz said at the funeral.

She also told everyone just how humble Andra’s beginnings were. She started out as a potato chip salesperson.

“I don’t know if you guys all knew this, stocking shelves as a retail Frito Lay, Brocks, salesperson,” Lifshultz told the congregation.

From there, Andra built her fortune -- moving from potato chips to computer chips.

And when it came to business, Andra was aggressive. Like the time she dropped everything to chase a deal on surplus computer electronics.

“Everyone in the United States was after this deal. What Andra did is she flew across the country to the CEO’s house and introduced herself on his doorstep. I’m not kidding,” Lifshultz continued.

Andra had a hunch she could make some money if she managed to convince the CEO to give her his stock of surplus memory chips and let her turn around and sell them. It worked.

“She got the inventory, made the sale and she never looked back,” Lifshultz told those at the gathering.

“She was living the American dream like I’d never seen in my 35 years as a real estate professional,” Burghardt said. “ She did not come from a wealthy family.”

From there, Andra started amassing other businesses -- real estate mostly, in California, Nevada, Washington and Florida.

“How would you describe her business savvy?” Roberts asked Burghardt.

“She had an uncanny sense of timing about investments,” he replied.

“She was aggressive?”

“Aggressive, yes,” Burghardt affirmed.

Asked if she was a “shark,” Burghardt described Andra as a “piranha.”

Andra and Brad Sachs

Andra and Brad Sachs

Stephanie Garber

The other victim in this story was Andra’s ex husband, Brad Sachs, a popular and handsome surfer who came from money and helped her in her business.

“I liked Brad. He was only a year younger than me … we were rivals. I played football against him, ran track,” Burghardt said. “And he surfed ... his father was a world-renowned surfer.”

But Brad and Andra’s relationship was complicated. They’d been divorced since 1999, but had reconciled and were living together raising their children. 

shadowofdeathfamily.jpg

The Sachs family

The Sachs family

By most accounts, they cared deeply about their kids -- all five of them. They had two girls, Lana, 15, and Alexis, 17; and three boys, Landon, 8, Myles, 21, and Ashton, 19.

Myles and Ashton were both living in Washington State at the time of the shootings.

At the funeral, Ashton spoke lovingly of his father and of his mother.

“He did everything so well, he was so well rounded,” Ashton said in tears. “He was the only person I’ve ever met who could do as much as my mom. They were just absolutely perfect for each other. They were the perfect team.”

“She was just an incredible person … and she did more in her 54 years than most people can do in 10 lifetimes,” Ashton continued in tears.

In spite of Andra’s successes and the family’s lavish lifestyles, they suffered tragedy. First it was a pool accident 15 years before the murders. With Brad and Andra away at work, their daughter Sabrina fell in.

The one-and-half-year-old toddler, who had been in the care of a housekeeper, drowned.   After that tragedy, Brad and Andra’s marriage apparently shattered.

Lesley Summers and Stephanie Garber are Andra Sachs’ sisters.

“It was a really contentious divorce,” said Garber.

“They battled for custody … the holdings … the business,” Summers explained. “They even had a knock-down, drag-out fight and filed a police report.”

As quickly as it started, the battle ended; the fighting was over and the divorce was finalized.

But surprisingly, Andra and Brad reconciled. They moved back in together, but never remarried. And according to relatives, Andra cut Brad out of the money.

For a time things were peaceful … then came that terrible night in February 2014.

“This was an incredibly brutal scene. I mean they were shot multiple times … little boy was targeted … a girl was targeted … parents killed in their bed,”said Cuniff.

“Brad and Andra had a number of business conflicts with various parties,” Orange County Sheriff’s Investigator Mike Thompson said. “Both the brothers had provided us a list of names of people who had been involved in extensive litigation with Brad and Andra.”

“Ashton said that when the detectives came and asked him who they thought that might kill Andra … they gave the detectives a list of enemies… two pages full,” said Summers.

And Ashton may have had good reason for his suspicions. He may have seen comments on a website criticizing Andra’s business practices: “Frankly, Andra and Brad are exactly where they belong. Six feet below the surface being cannibalized by the same insects who they had their tenants live with in their rentals.”

A “SAVAGE” SCENE

KCBS announcer: Tonight... detectives are searching for a suspect and a motive...

Answers may lie in their business dealings…

“Money, sex, and revenge … those are the three -- motivations for somebody to commit a murder,” Thompson explained. “And there were quite a few people who were angry with Andra.”

“Where the -- the trail led us was … to these business dealings and people that Andra and Brad may have scorned, possibly ripped off,” said Orange County Sheriff’s investigator Justin Montano.

“Here are some examples of complaints that people posted online about Brad and Andra,” Jack Leonard said, reading aloud. “’I have peace of mind while you hide behind your gated home with a dog patrolling the yard cause you have screwed so many people over’ … ‘You will have to answer to God for the evil black hearted witch that you are’ …’Karma is a bitch.’”

The crime scene looked angry, too -- the bedroom shot to pieces.

At a gun range in Los Angeles, “48 Hours” constructed a mockup of part of the Sachs’ bedroom to demonstrate how close the shooter was to the victims and the number of rounds of gunfire.

“How close was the shooter to the victims?” Roberts asked weapons expert Nabil Khattar.

“My understanding, he was at very close range,” he replied.

The shooter apparently stood just feet from his victims, right in the bedroom doorway.

He used a semi-automatic  rifle like that looks like an assault weapon.

“This is a Ruger SR22 rifle … more like a military-style  type weapon,” Khattar demonstrated. “The retractable stock … it allows you to be able to enter rooms and not have such a long barrel.”

“He came ready to do some serious damage,” Roberts commented.

“Correct,” said Khattar.

The shooter fired 24 of the 25 bullets -- devastating firepower in the bedrooms of Brad and Andra, and their 8-year-old son, Landon.

“As usual, the detectives looked at the family, the people closest to the victims,” Jack Leonard explained.

Along with the parents, there were three children in the house during the attack: Alexis, 17, who dodged a bullet, Landon, 8, who was hit and seriously wounded, and Lana, 15, who was in her bedroom on another floor.

“Both Ashton and Myles gave us alibis on their whereabouts at the time of the murder,” Thompson said. “They were 1,200 miles away up in Washington … at the time that we made death notification.”

Andra had sent them away to go to college and learn how to manage some properties she owned there. 

“Andra, I’ve never met anyone like you. Even though you’re my mother, I can’t help but feel that we had a relationship with one another which I never knew had even existed,” Myles Sachs said at the funeral.

Myles and Ashton Sachs

Myles and Ashton Sachs

Myles, 21, was the big brother, but everyone said Andra and Brad’s second son, Ashton, was the brightest.

“The most important thing to them was just the family, all of us and they just loved all of us so much,” Ashton said at the funeral.

“What were his aspirations, what did he want to do?” Roberts asked Stephanie Garber.

“He told me before he left for Seattle that he was gonna major in computer science,” she replied.

Since the boys were both living out of state in Washington, detectives moved on to what they considered stronger suspects.

“He said to me, ‘Before we go any further, I have to ask you questions  -- it’s a formality. Is there any reason you’d want to hurt Andra and Brad Sachs?’  I said, ‘Are you kidding?’ They were my life ... and my income, too, at the time, and I said, ‘No way,’” said Monte Burghardt.

“About three weeks into the case we had a major break where it was like the heavens parted,” said Thompson.

It was a clue discovered 1,200 miles north of the crime scene, in Seattle, Washington.

“It’s quite -- frequent on our cases that we do wanna dive into phone records, ‘cause that tells a lot for the case,” said Montano.

“There was a phone call placed to an auto transport company,” he continued.

“The caller had requested transportation of a vehicle from an address in San Juan Capistrano, which happened to be a commercial property owned by the Sachs, up to Seattle,” Thompson explained.

“We learn that there’s a white Prius that they have held in a storage facility,” Montano said. “So Seattle detectives go to the location … with the search warrant in hand they search the car.”

And when they opened the trunk, they discovered a gold mine.

“Inside the white Prius, Seattle P.D. detectives found a .22-caliber long rifle that was … used to kill Brad and Andra Sachs,” said Thompson.

“We feel confident that he is our suspect on this murder,” Montano announced at a press conference.

The murder suspect was the Sachs’ 19-year-old son, Ashton. That white Prius in Seattle was his car. And it was Ashton who just days before was shedding tears while he eulogized his mother and father.

A SHOCKING SUSPECT

“When they announced Ashton as the suspect, it was almost like, ‘Well, of course … of course it was somebody related to them,’” Orange County Register reporter Meghann Cuniff said. “The family had so many … financial obligations and so many financial fights and lawsuits that you kind of got wrapped up in thinking about that, but I mean, in the end, most murders are committed by somebody who knows the victims and is connected to the family.”

Ashton Sachs arrest photo

Ashton Sachs arrest photo

It was March 6, 2014, and the shocker is that Andra and Brad Sachs’ son, 19-year-old Ashton, was arrested and charged with the premeditated murder.

Inside his car, police had discovered the semi-automatic rifle used to shoot the Sachs and paralyze 8-year-old Landon. It was devastating.

“Ashton Sachs was … charged with two counts of murder for the murder of his parents,” Thompson said. “He was charged with the attempted murder of his sister, Alexis, and … his brother Landon. … A bullet pierced his spinal cord. …He’s paralyzed … with really no hope of ever regaining mobility.”

“I said, ‘No, it can’t be, Ashton is special,’” said Stephanie Garber.

“We were horrified and in shock over the death, but we became even more horrified when we found out it was him,” said Lesley Summers.

It was also painful to realize that less than a month before his arrest, Ashton spoke at his parent’s funeral.

“I really do believe that both of their energy is alive, and they will continue to guide me throughout life,” he said in his eulogy.

“Are you angry with him?” Roberts asked Garber.

“I’m not angry at him, no.  I want to understand what happened,” she replied.

“But he killed your sister,” said Roberts.

“I think there’s more to the story,” said Garber.

“As a kid I really just always thought I have pretty awesome parents,” Ashton said at the funeral.  “I don’t know how to sum up how or why they were so amazing and just perfect parents other than everything they did was always for their children.”

“I feel a lot of sadness about what he did,” Garber continued. “That he threw his life away.” 

Ashton’s arrest begs the question about his personality and character. If he was truly responsible for these crimes, was there something in his past that might have driven him to this?

The problem is, people”48 Hours” spoke with had widely differing opinions.

“We started hanging out a lot at school, eating lunch together with a couple other kids, and he had a good sense of humor,” said Connor Ward, a childhood friend.

Ashton Sachs

Ashton Sachs

Ward says Ashton was a bit of a nerd and often had a difficult time in school.

“… just really rambunctious … because he got picked on a little more than, I would say, most kids in middle school, “ he said.

But other people wouldn’t agree. For example, his aunts didn’t think he had problems in school. They called him “charming” and successful.

“He was funny and he was social and he was cute and happy,” said Lesley Summers.

“I thought he was very caring … and I never saw him get angry.  I never saw him lose his temper,” Garber added. “He had the most potential out of all of the children -- all of Andra’s children.  He was the brightest.  He was the sweetest.  He’s good looking.  And he took a wrong turn.” 

Andra’s business associate, Monte Burghardt, had a different view. He thought Ashton had an edge.

“I had interacted with him over the years and he was just kind of different,” he told Roberts. “He was young, he was 14, 15 years old. But he had a sadistic, warped sense of humor… he liked playing practical jokes on people … and he kind of terrorized people because they didn’t know where it was gonna come from. His brothers and sisters would always complain about that to their mom. …They were practical jokes but they always had a slant of torment to them.”

And Connor Ward, the middle school friend, said things in the Sachs home didn’t seem right.

“I went over there once, but I didn’t go back,” he explained. “Something just seemed off. … I didn’t get a good vibe from the house.  It was a mess. I mean, there wasn’t really anybody watching us or anything like that. …people were left to fend for themselves in there.”

Ali Mattu is a highly respected child psychologist at Columbia University Medical Center. At the request of “48 Hours,” Dr. Mattu studied the Sachs case.

“We have a kid who grew up … in a home where there was marital conflict coming from the tragic death of … Ashton’s younger sister,” said Dr. Mattu.

“From what you can glean from the grand jury report, what are your overall impressions?” Roberts asked.

“I think what we have is an individual where there were a lot of warning signs of something that could happen,” Mattu replied.

Doctor Mattu says one of the most obvious signs was Ashton’s obsessive behavior: spending hours and hours a day smoking pot and playing the video game “League of Legends.”

“He logged some 1,800 hours playing video games -- how violent is this game?” Roberts asked.

“It’s not as violent as other video games, such as Mortal Kombat or Grand Theft Auto, but there is a lot of killing involved,” said Mattu.

“Do you know if these kinds of video games desensitize a teen from his feelings?” Roberts asked.

“You gotta look at what function this game is serving that individual. …It’s OK to play these games.  What becomes a problem is when we see young people that are -- primarily only engaged in the video game.  They’re becoming isolated. …That’s when it raises a lot of red flags,” Dr. Mattu explained. “And -- it sounds like that’s a little bit of what was beginning to happen in this case.”

But Ashton’s isolation into a world of avatars wasn’t the biggest red flag.

“Andra told me that Ashton tried to commit suicide,” Garber told Roberts. “She said he broke up with his girlfriend, took a bunch of pills, Oxycontin, and then called her up and said, ‘How many pills do I need to take to kill myself?’”

According to his aunts, Ashton was hospitalized for 72 hours. But that was it. They say he never got any other counseling.  Then, about five months later, Ashton went away to that community college in Seattle.

“Do you think it was a wise decision to send an emotionally vulnerable young man out of state to attend school?” Roberts asked Dr. Mattu.

“Was it a wise decision?  It’s hard for me to judge,” he replied. “Ashton … really struggled to do a lot of those daily activities on his own.  Maybe he had a lot of support from his family, and moving to Seattle without that support could have been that major stressor that resulted in -- in some of the problems we see in this case.”

“They left behind just one of the strongest and tightest families-- the closest families they could have ever wished for,” Ashton said in his eulogy.

Dr. Mattu says there seem to be a lot of missing links in Ashton’s story.

“We don’t see -- the story of a child and adolescent who was engaging in a lot of violent activity. We see a story of a kid who is becoming more isolated, using substances -- failing to meet some of the academic demands of college. Do we see a kid with a history of violence that might … fit the profile of someone who’d go on to -- to commit murder?  Not necessarily,” he said.

A SON CONFESSES

It’s been over two years since Ashton Sachs admitted shooting his family in their Southern California mansion. Since “48 Hours” first reported this story, there have been some dramatic developments -- starting with the release of an incriminating audio tape.

To set the scene:  It’s a month after the murders. Ashton has moved in with his brother, Myles, back in Southern California when investigators Justin Montano and Mike Thompson arrive at the door.

“We went up, knocked at the door. They weren’t expecting us,” Montano said. “We wanna meet with him, be friendly, nice -- get him on our side.”

Investigator Montano to Myles and Ashton Sachs: Like I said, we start really early just on tracking down leads and talking to people…

The detectives chat for a few minutes before Myles leaves the house. Ashton doesn’t realize they’ve actually come to arrest him:

Investigator Montano: When we catch this person what do you think should happen to them?

Ashton Sachs: I think they should go to prison for the rest of their lives.

“We really wanted to lock him into a story, whether it be lies or him to clear up some of the evidence that we found out,” said Montano.

Investigator Montano: We just want to make sure that you’re saying you’re in Washington at this time.

Ashton Sachs: Yeah.

Investigator Montano: Like, if we were playing “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” that’s gonna be your final answer that you were in Washington.

Ashton Sachs: Yeah.

Obviously, we want him to confess to the crime. If he’s not gonna confess, is he gonna confirm his lies,” Thompson said. “We know for certain he’d been in Orange County on the day of the murders.”

Investigator Montano: When was the last time you’re at John Wayne Airport?

Ashton Sachs: When I flew down here after this happened.

But Ashton was lying and detectives set the trap:

Investigator Montano: So if we were to see you on video on February 9th in John Wayne Airport, what would you say about that?

Ashton Sachs: Flying out? No.

Investigator Montano: We know a ton of info. OK, ‘cause it does no good to start spewing out lies.

“We knew that he had purchased a gun. …We knew that he had the gun in his car. …We knew all these facts,” said Thompson.

Ashton realized he was caught. He turned sullen and stopped talking.

“We … knew he was lying and he knew we knew he was lying,” said Montano.

This was the moment. Investigators arrested Ashton Sachs for the murder of his parents and the attempted murder of his brother. 

Ashton offered no resistance, and detectives drove him from his brother’s condo to police headquarters.  

Investigator Montano: You have the right to remain silent, you understand?  You have a right to an attorney before and during any questioning, do you understand that?

Ashton did not ask for a lawyer.

“Ashton seemed very detached, very quiet, Montano observed.”… and emotional. …you could tell in his voice, very low, very monotone.”

This was the turning point. Within minutes, Ashton began to confess:

Investigator:  When you put the gun in the car to come down to Orange County … what were you thinking?

Ashton Sachs: …shoot them and then kill myself…

Investigator:  Tell me what’s going through your mind as you’re shooting them?

Ashton Sachs: I couldn’t even remember… I was just a rush. …I was like not myself… I don’t know... I was something twisted.

“When he started confessing, I was quite surprised when he started telling what he did,” Thompson remarked.

“… this investigation revealed the great lengths that Ashton went to … from buying the gun in Seattle, driving down 18 hours or so with stopping one time. He didn’t even stop to use the bathroom. He actually urinated on himself,” said Montano.

Weeks before the crime, Ashton had bought that rifle.

Investigators Mike Thompson and Justin Montano

Investigators Mike Thompson and Justin Montano with the rifle Ashton Sachs used to kill his parents

Michelle Fanucci

“This is obviously the gun,” Montano said showing “48 Hours” the rifle. “Twenty rounds fired out of this bad boy. This is the weapon that Ashton used … to murder his parents, to paralyze his brother.”

Ashton Sachs: At like 2 a.m. I drove up to the house.

Investigator Montano: Did you retrieve the gun from the car?

Ashton Sachs. Yeah

Investigator Montano: Where was that at?

Ashton Sachs: In the back.

Ashton Sachs: I don’t know how to describe it. My heart was beating really fast and I knew it wasn’t normal.

“He said he waited in his parents’ house for at least 10 or 15 minutes, pacing up and down the hallway.’Am I gonna do it? Am I gonna not do it?’” said Thompson.

Ashton Sachs: It was silent. I walked around for 10 or 15 minutes, went upstairs. …I went in my parent’s room first … shot at them.

Investigator Montano …and then what did you do

Ashton Sachs:  I left the room, walked past Landon’s room, shot towards him. Then I just ran downstairs to Lexi’s room. I shot at her once and then ran.

“After committing the murder, got in his car in the cul-de-sac right in front of his house, drove to his parents business where he then contacted a cab company to come pick him up… drove his him straight to John Wayne Airport…around 3:15 I wanna say,” said Montano.

“He gets on the wifi, does some internet surfing and some other stuff and then flies back home,” said Thompson.

The detectives had a confession; now the question was “why?”

“What would motivate Ashton to commit this murder?” said Thompson.

Ashton Sachs: I was so f-----d up was cause of my parents.

“He went on about how his parents never trusted him with anything, how Myles was kind of the favorite child,” said Thompson.

Investigator Montano: Describe your relationship with your mom, Andra, for me?

Ashton Sachs:  I always thought she was, like, the only person in the world who really I could trust, but she didn’t care about me.

Investigator Montano: How about your dad?

Ashton Sachs:  He never really liked me or just loved me. …we were never close. He was mean to me and would try to exclude me from things.

Lately, things had gotten worse. He’d broken up with an online girlfriend, he dropped out of school without telling his mom, he was smoking a lot of pot and playing endless hours of video games.

“Up in Seattle, he was living that reclusive life. Kind of backing away from everyone, not keeping up with his studies,” Thompson explained. “So once Andra finds out he’s not in school, I think there’s a big price to pay.”

It sounds like Ashton Sachs was a depressed, suicidal adolescent who made a terrible decision. But is there more to the story?

Investigator Montano: Why were you wearing gloves??

Ashton Sachs: Don’t know. In case I touched anything.

Investigator Montano: If you weren’t wearing gloves and touched something, what would have happened?

Ashton Sachs: Fingerprints.

If Ashton was concerned about his fingerprints, maybe he wasn’t planning to commit suicide after all; maybe his motive was even darker.

Ashton’s aunts told “48 Hours” he was fascinated by a sensational murder case from the 1980s.

The year was 1989; the place, Beverly Hills, California. Lyle Menendez, 21, placed a frantic call to 911 saying that he and his younger brother, Erik, had just come home to find their millionaire parents shot dead.

According to his aunts, Ashton even wrote a college paper about the murders and then bragged about the essay to his parents.

“He said he called his parents and told them he got an A on it,” Stephanie Garber explained. “He gets A’s all the time.  So why that particular paper?  He was notifying them that he was particularly interested in the Menendez story.”

And there are some similarities between the Menendez case and the Sachs murders.

Like Ashton, the Menendez boys eulogized their parents at memorials, weeping over their losses.

And again, like Ashton, the Menendez boys suggested to detectives that their father’s business enemies may have committed the crimes. 

In that case, the prosecution argued that the real motive was the fortune they stood to inherit from their wealthy parents, and in the end, the jury agreed … convicting both boys.

There’s one more thing. In the days before the murders Ashton reportedly did some legal research. He looked up the consequences of attempted murder and felony murder, he looked up the insanity defense, and he looked up the terms of parole.

All suspicious looking behaviors, raising the question: is Ashton simply a damaged teen or is he something far more frightening?

THE FINAL CHAPTER

“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,” Ashton said in his eulogy.

“For somebody to stand up at their parents’ funeral, he really pulled the wool over everybody’s eyes. To stand up there and say that Andra was his hero after he cold-blooded, point-blank range murdered her, that just doesn’t set well with us-- I don’t think that sets well with anybody,” said Investigator Justin Montano.

“I think he’s somewhat sociopathic in that he’s able to stand up in front of people and represent somebody who he isn’t really, when he’s the one who murdered ‘em,” said Investigator Mike Thompson.

But could the motive have been money?   Montano and Thompson asked Ashton that when they interviewed him:

Investigator Montano:   Tell me what you know about the will, your parent’s will. 

Ashton Sachs:  I didn’t know anything about it.  They always told us all that when they die, all the money was going to charity, but just enough for us to go to school.

Investigator Montano:  Did any thoughts cross your mind, hey if, if they die, it’d look like you’d be doing pretty good?

Ashton Sachs:  No.  There’s no money at all. 

“I mean, yeah, Andra was a very hard-driving businesswoman. I mean, you could even say ruthless. But I don’t think Ashton’s primary motivation was money,” Montano remarked.   

“I think it was revenge for -- for his sense of being slighted by the family. He, in his statement -- in his confession -- he said that his parents never trusted him with anything, never entrusted him with anything. But Myles was being brought up in this heir apparent of the company. And I -- I think that’s -- resentment’s what ultimately drove him to commit the crime,” said Thompson.

“But I really think when you look into it and peel this onion of this case, is it comes down to his resentment of his parents, his resentment of his brothers, and again, that’s what drove him to commit these murders,” said Montano.

“Cold-blooded killer, no doubt in my mind. He planned this from beginning to end,” he said.

In jail, Ashton seems to have reconnected with his faith. His family became embroiled in a legal battle over who would administer the multimillion dollar estate—a fight  between the aunts on one side, and on the other, his oldest brother, Myles, and a close friend of Andra’s, Nina Lifshultz, who eulogized the Sachs at their funeral.   The two sides have now settled—with Lifshultz and Myles in charge.

Myles Sachs, 24, was awarded custody of his three siblings, including 11-year-old Landon, who is confined to a wheelchair. They are all living together.

Ashton has remained in a Southern California jail for more than two years.  His aunts still talk with him, and they say Ashton did express regret.

“…and he cries … he cries about it, and he wishes he could take it back,” said Stephanie Garber.

In a letter to “48 Hours,” Ashton declined to be interviewed, but he asked us to be “sensitive to the needs of the victims who are still trying to heal” -- his two brothers and two sisters.

And then, in late September, came an unexpected development. Ashton fired his public defender and asked for a special hearing and decided to represent himself.  Ashton took the court by surprise by pleading guilty. The judge made absolutely sure Ashton understood what he was doing:

 “You understand that by pleading guilty you will never be released from prison,” the judge asked.  

“Yes I do,” Ashton replied.  And he stated his crime:  “I intentionally killed with premeditation and deliberation both Bradford and Andra Sachs.”

And on October 14, the final chapter in this tragic story: Ashton’s sentencing hearing.

As Ashton listened intently, Senior Deputy District Attorney Mike Murray minced no words about what he thought of Ashton’s actions.

“What he did was get in the car and drive 18 hours with a plan to kill his family. And he did kill his parents, paralyzed his brother and attempted to kill his sister,” Murray told the court. “The defendant’s a sociopath. He has no remorse, he has no empathy. All he cares about is himself.”

Ashton Sachs learns his fate

Ashton Sachs learns his fate

None of Ashton’s four siblings were in the courtroom, but his aunt, Brad’s sister, Lisa McGowan, speaks powerfully of the damage Ashton did to his  family.

“You had a choice Ashton. You apparently had been thinking about this that you were gonna do for a long time. Then you had 18 hours to turn that car around. You were 19 and an adult, not 10, 11, or 12, and still stuck under their authority,” McGowan told her nephew. “You could’ve walked away from the family and made it on your own.  I have been told by my friends and family that in order to move forward, I need to forgive you. Well here’s my choice: at this time I can’t forgive you for what you did. Maybe someday, but not today.”

Then, after carefully reviewing all the facts of the case, Judge Gregg Prickett quotes case law: “Multiple murder is deserving of most severe punishment.” He sentences Ashton to four life sentences -- including one for shooting at his sister, Alexis, who was not hit; plus another 100 years for using  a gun and for paralyzing Landon. Ashton will never be eligible for parole.

Before he is escorted from the courtroom, an odd smile seems to appear on Ashton’s face.

“When we are lost and thick of heart, we remember them,” a Rabbi said at the Sachs’ funeral. “So long as we live, they too shall live. For they are now a part of us as we remember them.”

Under California law, Ashton Sachs’ life sentences are subject to automatic appeal.