A jury convicted Joshua Dean Smith, a 26-year-old man, of fatally stabbed Dennis Quan Tran, a 41-year-old from Westminster, as they smoked meth behind a Walmart store in Santa Ana after the victim made a pass at him.
Smith was convicted of second-degree murder, and a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a deadly weapon. He is set to be sentenced on Jan. 21, and is facing 16 years to life in prison.
The fact that Smith killed Tran, at the Walmart located at 3600 W. McFadden Ave. in Santa Ana, was never in question but the jury had the option of going with lesser charges of manslaughter. Smith’s defense lawyer also argued that the killing was in self-defense.
Smith and his girlfriend were living at sober living facilities in the area. On the day of the attack Smith ended up at the Walmart after he missed a few buses as he was trying to get back to his sober living facility. He was trying to charge his cell phone at the Walmart. He intended to wait at the store until the early morning when his girlfriend could come get him.
Walmart surveillance video shows Smith entering the store just past 11:34 p.m. on Dec. 17, 2016. Tran appears in the video as he approaches Smith. The two then went behind two tractor trailers for just over a half hour. Tran had asked Smith if he wanted to go smoke meth with him, according to the prosecutor.
Tran’s toxicological report showed he had meth, amphetamines and Ecstasy in his system.
As they were smoking meth Smith said that Tran brought up the idea of engaging in a sex act with him. Smith rejected the proposition. He told Tran he did not “swing like that.” But Tran then replied that “nobody does until they need some dope.”
Tran then allegedly got “grabby” and Smith reacted by stabbing him 31 times.
Tran was unarmed at the time of the attack.
Smith then went through Tran’s pockets and took his money and his meth. He later told his girlfriend that he was surprised that Tran only had $15 on him.
Smith later threatened to kill his girlfriend if she told the police about his role in Tran’s murder. He allegedly laughed about the killing when the topic came up in ensuing months.
Smith’s luck ran out when a manager of the sober living home where his girlfriend was staying called the police to report Smith as a suspect. The girlfriend also made an anonymous call to the police.