Friends Mourn Lives Upended by Slaying

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The Laguna Niguel home where Richard Begley was found with a fatal stab wound. Photo courtesy of Ed Krebs
The Laguna Niguel home where Richard Begley was found with a fatal stab wound.

Late last August, surf school owner James Pribram returned home from the beach in early evening to the broad streets and hillside ranch houses of Laguna Niguel and came upon the unexpected.

Richard Begley, who Pribram knew from his boyhood where they both surfed local breaks in Laguna Beach, sat on a curb outside a neighborhood church sending a text message. Pribram stopped and beckoned the man he considered a second brother inside his car, noting a red welt on his face.

It was clear something was wrong as Begley began to cry. For 30 minutes as Begley sobbed and his shoulders shook, he revealed to Pribram that his girlfriend was “beating him up,” and that he felt helpless to protect himself. “If I put a hand on her, I’ll go to jail,” Begley told Pribram, an admission both painful and stunning to absorb.

“I told him he needed to sober up and get out,” Pribram said in an interview this week.

Richard Begley and his children, Mitchell and Haley. Photo courtesy of Dani Purcell
Richard Begley and his children, Mitchell and Haley. Photo courtesy of Dani Purcell

Now, in a strange twist, it is Begley’s girlfriend, Michele Lynn Green, who is behind bars at the Orange County Jail, arrested by sheriff’s deputies for suspicion of murder in his stabbing death last Saturday, Feb. 21. Deputies responded to a call about a man sprawled on the lawn of a home on La Vida Drive about 8:30 p.m. and discovered Begley with a stab wound to his abdomen. Deputies attempted life-saving measures but were unsuccessful.

Green, 50, acknowledged to deputies she had been drinking prior to the stabbing and investigators learned that she and Begley, 52, were involved in a domestic dispute at the home they shared in Niguel, a half block from the church. Deputies have yet to determine or disclose the reason for the dispute or a motive. Court records show no previous offenses.

“His closest friends knew it was a troubled relationship,” said Pribram, who believes alcohol and possibly drug abuse by both contributed to the escalation of violence that culminated in Begley’s death. “They were not good for each other. Everyone knew they enabled each other. I’m blaming them and all of us for distancing ourselves from the situation. Our community doesn’t need another tragedy.

“I think it’s time we all step up and do something about it,” said Pribram, who invited Tanya Brown, the youngest sister of Nicole Brown Simpson and an advocate for domestic violence prevention, on his radio show this week.

An arraignment this week for Green, who grew up in Three Arch Bay and holds a credential as an elementary teacher, was continued until March 10. Prosecutors say they will request that she be held for $1 million bail. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 26 years to life.

An autopsy on Begley’s body was also scheduled this week, said supervising Deputy Coroner Alison O’Neil.

Laguna Beach friends of the couple, Rodger Healey and Chad Gibbs, said they got together Monday for a sundown tribute, placing a photo of Begley and flowers at their favorite surf break and lifting a Mai tai to him at Wind & Sea, a harbor side Dana Point restaurant where he was a regular.

Gibbs described occasionally running into Begley and Green during Friday happy hour in Dana Point in recent years. Begley would gregariously invite him to join them. “He was happy to have people from Laguna be part of his world,” said Gibbs, an electrician, who never observed tension between the two. “Both were a delight when we would see them,” said Gibbs, distraught over the tragedy overshadowing two local families.

Michele GreenPhoto courtesy the OC Sheriff’s Department.
Michele Green                       Photo courtesy the OC Sheriff’s Department.

 

Begley worked as a plumber and occasional lobsterman, jobs that gave him the flexibility to surf when conditions were good, his friends said. He was known for affectionate and stubbly bear-hug greetings and planting sloppy wet kisses on friends male and female, said local Brandy Faber, a wine distributor, who recalled Begley as a teenager trying to use a garden hose to douse a fire at his family home on Circle Drive. “He was very positive, very encouraging,” said Faber, describing Begley as a protective mentor when he was a youth.

More recently, Green and Begley, classmates at Laguna Beach High School in the ‘80s, started dating two years ago. Begley and his first wife, Juanita, are the parents of two children, Haley and Mitchell.

“He found this new girl he was totally in love with,” said another friend, Ed Krebs, describing a conversation he had with Begley at the Sandpiper bar in Laguna Beach.

Another former classmate, Dede Westgaard, ran into Begley and Green just last week. They were wearing swim gear Wednesday, Feb. 18, and coming up the stairs from Treasure Island Beach below the Montage resort. “He was fun-loving and always happy. I never saw him in a bad mood,” Westgaard said.

But an eerily similar tragedy had struck Begley 30 years before. He was present when his boyhood friend from Laguna, Mitchell Kessler, was stabbed to death in a fight. Inebriated visitors had burst in on the Kesslers’ private party in Baja California, the Los Angeles Times reported on Jan. 13, 1985.

Begley’s son is his namesake.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. There’s no mention of Richard’s sister, Tracy. I wonder why? There have been a handful of highly inspiring people in my life, and Richard was one of them. This goes back to his first day in Laguna when he and his family moved into a new home on Center Street … moving here from London. If 5% of the world’s population had Richard’s energy, robust expression of affection and happy charm, the rest would fall into line by osmosis, becoming heart-centered and demonstrative despite themselves. Richard will be missed immensely.

  2. it is through this tragedy that we can learn there are men who get abused and lno domestic violence shelte/ in Orange County. The men that are victim’s of domestic violence need to step up and break the silence. There are resources out there to help victim’s, you need to become aware of these resources. This is a tragic incident that shows us that men too can be victim’s of domestic violence and time for us as a society to educate and provide more resources. There are a ton of resources out there to help men and woman, you need to become aware of these resources so next time you know where to go and what to do. My heart goes out to his children, friend’s and family.

  3. The resources available to men victim’s aren’t very many. The Shelter’s around Orange County are for woman. There is no men shelter’s or co-ed shelter’s, by documenting the abuse is the best thing one can do.

  4. What, why ,another postponement,richards family and Friends need closure on this,her lawyer is prolonging this ,she is still out on bail. Please can anyone give me any updates. jebcanfixit@gmail. Thanks

  5. Than man taught me how to read the ocean,when i was a surf grom in laguna back in the late 70s.
    Graduated with Michele Bunce Greene at Laguna Beach High. They both had very outgoing personalities. My mom lived down the street from them. When one early evening Begs was walking down the street,yelling my name Hey Mihaljevic! Hey approached me a little buzzed and a black eye…i calmed him down a bit and took him fishing all nightat the local lake,where he talked about his relationship …sad…i miss him

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