A Huntington Beach personal trainer has been convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for fatally shooting a man he saw as a romantic rival and a woman he believed to be his ex-girlfriend, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.
Jamon Rayon Buggs, 47, was also convicted of one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, one count of attempted first-degree burglary and a sentencing enhancement of personal discharge of a firearm causing death in connection with the April 2019 incident.
Darren Donald Partch, 38, of Newport Beach, and Wendi Sue Miller, 48, of Costa Mesa were found shot to death inside Partch’s condo in the 2100 block of East 15th Street in Newport Beach.
Partch had been previously threatened by Buggs on two prior occasions to stay away from his girlfriend, officials said. Partch said he did not have a relationship with the woman, but he agreed to stay away from her. There is no evidence that Miller, who had given Partch a ride home after meeting him a few hours earlier, had any interaction with Buggs prior to the murders.
But Buggs suspected Partch was having a romantic relationship with his ex-girlfriend and he fatally shot Miller because he mistakenly believed she was his ex-girlfriend who he thought was in bed with another man, officials said.
Miller, of Costa Mesa, was described as a well-liked mother of two from Costa Mesa who ran a nonprofit that worked to help children within the family court system. Partch was a hockey player turned account executive.
In the weeks leading up to the killings, Buggs was conducting computer searches to find information on Partch, including his cell phone number, current and former addresses, and photographs, officials discovered. Cell phone data also placed Buggs at Partch’s former and current residences numerous times, including the night Partch and Miller were shot.
Then, 18 hours after the killings, Buggs apparently tried to break into the Irvine apartment he incorrectly believed belonged to a chiropractor he also suspected was having a relationship with his ex-girlfriend.
A woman spotted Buggs, and as he climbed down from the balcony, he fired a gun, officials said.
Police recovered the bullet during their investigation into the burglary and set up surveillance on the complex. The next night, Buggs drove up in his Camaro and was arrested after a high-speed pursuit and extensive search through a neighborhood.
A gun matching ballistics to the killings and the burglary was found, and DNA matched Buggs to the weapons and bullets, officials said.
Buggs’ defense argued that the killings were a case of mistaken identity because his ex-girlfriend had blonde wavy hair like Miller, and that the murders were committed in a dark room in the middle of the night, making it hard for Buggs to distinguish the two victims.
But Orange County DA Todd Spitzer said the two victims were “executed at the hands of a jealous ex-boyfriend who was hunting for the woman he was obsessed with.”
“This was a systematic and methodical plot to exact revenge and eliminate his rivals – real or perceived,” Spitzer said. “Tragically, Darren and Wendi were two innocent people who were not involved with Mr. Buggs and had no responsibility for the relationship issues he had with his ex-girlfriend; yet they paid the ultimate price with their lives. Even after he realized the woman he killed was not his ex-girlfriend, he continued working his way down his hit list to eliminate his rivals. And he would have kept hunting and killing if he hadn’t been arrested.”
Buggs, who has a prior strike for assault on a police officer, faces a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole on June 3.