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Former sheriff’s deputy Robert McClain goes on trial in brutal torture case

Robert McClain
Robert McClain
Orange County DA's Office

A former L.A. County sheriff’s deputy is on trial today in an unusually horrific torture case involving his wife and her younger lover.

Robert McClain, 38, is accused of imprisoning the couple in 2008 and torturing them physically, sexually and emotionally for two and a half hours in an empty leasing office in Irvine.

According to opening statements made today by the prosecution, the 245-pound ex-Marine and ex-sheriff’s deputy, having learned about the affair, convinced his wife that he should be allowed to meet her lover. What followed was a grisly scene of torture in which both victims were brutalized in several ways, including the man’s face being “carved up into a pumpkin,” Orange County Deputy District Attorney John Christl told jurors.

The 12-year marriage of McClain and his wife was crumbling, and she became involved with the other man for about four months, Christl said. McClain eventually found out and told his wife that he wanted to meet the man, a 23-year-old musician who had moved to California to audition for “American Idol.”

They met at the Irvine office where his wife worked -- and which McClain then turned into a makeshift torture chamber, Christl said.

The details of the ordeal are not for the faint of heart:

Having tied up the pair, McClain produced a knife and two guns -- including his service revolver -- and began to torture the victims, Christl said.

He repeatedly struck the man with his fists, asking him how many times he slept with his wife, then took the knife and slashed the victim's face, arm and groin, Christl said.

Propping him up on a chair, McClain said, “Are you glad you cheated with my wife now?” according to the prosecutor.

At one point, McClain gave his wife a gun loaded with one bullet to kill the man. Christi said. On the fourth try, she turned to McClain and fired, but it didn’t go off.

“He gave her an empty gun,” Christl said.

The man was left inside the office. McClain’s wife also was badly beaten, and he eventually let her drive with her three children to the hospital, Christl said.

The man was found hours later and had virtually every bone in his face broken, Christl said. He suffered brain damage and needed four months of rehabilitation to re-learn how to walk and talk.

“He couldn't remember what happened,” Christl said. “He thought he was in a car accident.”

A longer and more horrifying list of atrocities alleged by the prosecution are provided in this Orange County Register Report.

If jurors find McClain guilty of crimes that include torture, kidnapping and sexual assault, the trial will enter a second phase when the jury must decide if he was legally sane on the night of Sept. 28, 2008.

McClain has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He faces life in prison if convicted.

Wearing gray slacks, striped shirt and white skull cap, he looked at the graphic photos taken after the attacks but showed no response.

The Register reports that the jurors in Superior Court Judge Gary Paer's Santa Ana courtroom “listened in riveted silence to the gruesome details.” McClain’s defense attorney, Deputy Public Defender Darren Thompson, was also scheduled to give his opening statement on Monday.

Christl said investigators found bloodied clothing, a folding knife and guns that tied McClain to the crimes. He told jurors they will hear from McClain's wife -- the “only historian to these events” -- during the trial.

“You are going to hear her courage,” he said.

-- Associated Press and Staff Reports