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Attorney injured in plane crash that killed wife

Richard Farnell was a well-known prosecutor who went into private practice in Newport Beach. He and wife, Darla, lived in Laguna.

March 06, 2014|By Katie Metzger

A former Orange County prosecutor, who successfully prosecuted serial killer Rodney Alcala, survived a plane crash near Lake Tahoe on Monday, but his wife died at the scene, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The pilot, former Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard Farnell, 70, was flown to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno. His wife, Darla Sue Farnell, 55, was found dead at the crash site, which was on the California side of Lake Tahoe.

The couple owned a home in Laguna Beach for several years and also lived in Tahoe. Following his years with the Orange County district attorney's office, Richard Farnell practiced law in Newport Beach.

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The cause of the crash was under investigation.

The hospital would not release information on Farnell's condition. Placer County Sheriff's Lt. John Weaver said he was optimistic that the pilot would recover.

FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the couple were flying a Piper PA-46 from John Wayne Airport in Orange County bound for Truckee. The plane crashed about four miles southeast of the Truckee Tahoe Airport at about 11 a.m., according to published reports.

The single-engine plane was located in a mountainous area in four or five feet of snow, according to a Placer County report.

Search and rescue teams provided medical aid to Richard Farnell, classified as "critically injured," until paramedics arrived.

The Farnells owned a home on Crescent Bay Drive in Laguna Beach, according to property records.

Before going into private practice, Richard Farnell was a major felony and murder prosecutor for the Orange County district attorney from 1978 to 1981 and headed several high-profile murder cases, including the first conviction of Alcala in 1980.

Alcala was convicted in the murders of a 12-year-old Huntington Beach girl and four Los Angeles women.

Laguna Beach resident David Carter, a federal judge, worked alongside Farnell when the two were deputy district attorneys in the homicide division.

"He was an extremely confident, well-prepared attorney," Carter said.

—Bryce Alderton contributed to this report.

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