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Death and the Dentist

April 23, 1986|TERRY PRISTIN | Times Staff Writer

It is a case with all the elements of a pulp novel: A killing, lurid sex stories, a kidnaping, a high-speed chase. At the center of it all is a Gardena dentist, accused of committing a murder in his own office. Now, the final chapter in this bizarre tale is being written in court--but the jury won't be hearing all the details.

David Paschal had an unusual reason for visiting a dentist's office on a Saturday night. He was lured there by the prospect of sex with the dentist's receptionist, authorities say.

Paschal, 26, was never again seen alive.

Twelve days later, Paschal's body was found in the trunk of a car parked at Los Angeles International Airport. He had been shot at least nine times.

Paschal was killed in the dentist's Gardena office--by the dentist himself, if the prosecution is to be believed, or by one of the dentist's receptionists, according to the defense.

Opening statements are scheduled for today in the retrial of Dr. Michael Myron Olson, who is accused of murdering Paschal to prevent him from testifying about the dentist's role in a kidnaping case for which Olson, 44, was subsequently convicted. If found guilty of the murder charge, Olson could face the death penalty.

Elements of a Pulp Novel

The bizarre tale that ends with Paschal's murder begins with Olson's kinky sexual tastes, authorities say, and has all the elements of a pulp novel, complete with a kidnaping and a high-speed chase.

But very little of this story will be presented to the jury.

"I am put at a tremendous disadvantage in trying to prove (Olson's) guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," the original prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Nikola M. Mikulicich, told Torrance Superior Court Judge William R. Hollingsworth.

" . . . The first question logically in (jurors') minds would be, 'Why would a dentist do all this?' "

Defense attorney Leslie H. Abramson was able to persuade Hollingsworth during the first trial, which ended in a mistrial, that evidence about drug-dealing or about the "defendant's sexual activities, proclivities or interest" would be "prejudicial."

The judge also ruled that the jury could hear "just the bare facts of the kidnaping," rather than the story of how the dentist masterminded it and supplied the guns that were used. His kidnaping conviction and seven-year sentence were also ruled inadmissible.

Mistrial Declared

Hollingsworth declared a mistrial Jan. 10 when Abramson objected to testimony of one of the receptionists, who said she and Olson had sex shortly after Paschal's murder.

" . . . Sex with a body lying in the next room! It's . . . bound to show bad character or immorality or ghoulishness, or whatever, on the part of my client," Abramson said.

It took police more than a year to link Paschal's death to the dentist, a corpulent father of three with what Mikulicich described in court as a "sort of a Svengali influence over the women" who worked for him.

Olson's former receptionists--Victoria Jew, 51, a Hong Kong-born former beautician, acupuncturist and interpreter, and Sue Okada, 38, an immigrant from Korea--became his chief accusers. Both women lived in the dental office at various times and testified that they followed Olson's orders because they were afraid of him.

The defense will argue that Jew, who was given immunity in the murder case in exchange for her testimony, wanted Paschal dead to stop him from implicating her in the kidnaping. Abramson will try to show that the women's stories are "wildly inconsistent and improbable," as she put it at the first trial.

Both Abramson and the new prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. John A. Delavigne, declined to discuss the case.

But according to court documents, the complicated tale begins with the breakup of Olson's three-year relationship with another employee--a woman he accused in a 1980 lawsuit of absconding with $5,000.

In a $4.5-million countersuit, the employee, Jeannette Wardrop, claimed that the dentist had sexually abused her.

On one occasion, Wardrop said, Olson tore off her clothing, tied her up on a door in his offices and "while using a videotape recording device, proceeded to shoot (her) several times with a pellet rifle, inflicting serious injuries."

To put an end to the suit, "the doctor wanted Wardrop and her whole family killed," Los Angeles Police Detective Robert Tapia wrote in an affidavit filed with the court.

Disappeared With $50,000

Olson asked a man named James Brandon to locate Wardrop, and to buy drugs for him, court records show. Instead, Brandon disappeared with $50,000 Olson had given him.

Enter David Paschal.

Paschal, an accountant who lived in Fullerton, was a friend of Andrew Garcia, a young man who was engaged to Jew's daughter. The dentist hired Garcia and Paschal in November, 1980, to help him kidnap Brandon's brother, Ronald, from his home in Northern California, according to Mariposa County Dist. Atty. J. Bruce Eckerson.

Olson hoped to smoke out James Brandon and get his money back, according to the prosecutor.

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