By Neal Putnam
A gay man who stabbed his longtime partner to death in 2015 in Escondido was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison.
The case against Ehren Lee Dragt, 39, and his partner, Michael Leon Campbell, 44, had been together for more than 15 years before a domestic violence incident on April 25, 2015, ended with Campbell dead.
Dragt called someone in Oregon and talked about his partner being dead. That person contacted Escondido Police and asked for a welfare check at the home in the 2000 block of Lee Avenue.
Officers found a despondent Dragt sitting on the steps outside and Campbell was dead from three stab wounds inside. Dragt was taken to a hospital for dehydration before being booked for murder.
“I want to apologize for anyone I have wronged,” wrote Dragt on his Facebook account at 2:27 a.m. on April 25 before police arrived.
Escondido Police said they had showed up several times previously at the couple’s apartment.
A deputy medical examiner for San Diego County testified that Campbell died from a wound that penetrated his heart. He was also stabbed in the clavicle area and had a small neck wound.
Dragt pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Vista Superior Court Judge K. Michael Kirkman imposed a sentence of 15 years to life plus one year for the use of a knife.
Deputy District Attorney Benjamin Barlow filed an unrelated case against Dragt that involved molesting a teenager some years earlier. Dragt also pleaded guilty to two counts of a lewd act with a minor, and the judge added three years and eight months to the sentence consecutively.
On March 6, Barlow said the total sentence is 19 years and eight months to life. Dragt received credits of nearly three years in jail which will be taken from the total term.
Dragt agreed to serve the total term of 19 years and eight months as part of the plea agreement, said Barlow.
Dragt and Campbell met in 1999. Campbell is the former owner of Campbell’s Pool and Patio and Dragt had worked as a store manager at a Goodwill Industries store in La Mesa.
Dragt had a number of attorneys on his case over the years, but none of them could be reached for comment. A neighbor of both men said at the time she would be taking care of the couple’s cat.
—Neal Putnam is a local freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.