The attorney for a Tarzana woman accused of murdering her husband argued to a jury Tuesday that the woman's long-time boyfriend, frustrated by her refusal to get a divorce, was the only person who had reason to kill the man.
"Who had a motive?" defense attorney Alan Baum asked the Van Nuys Superior Court jury. "Are you all thinking the same thing I am?
"There is the matter of 5 1/2 years of disappointment, broken promises, unfulfilled love."
The statement, which came during closing arguments in the trial of Elizabeth Ozerson, was a thinly veiled reference to Bert Kreisberg, 63, of Studio City. He and Ozerson acknowledged in testimony that they had been lovers since 1981 and that Kreisberg had threatened to end the affair several times unless Ozerson divorced her husband, Noray Ozerson, 32.
Promised to Leave Husband
Ozerson, 33, testified that she had promised on numerous occasions to move out of her home and into Kreisberg's. Her final promise was to leave her husband on Dec. 10--the same day, it turned out, that he was shot to death.
Baum asserted that Ozerson knew that his wife was having an affair and accepted it. She easily could have left him and did not need to kill him to join her lover, as the prosecution has suggested, he said.
Kreisberg said outside the courtroom that he found Baum's suggestion that he could have been the killer "comical."
"At my age, I'm not going to commit murder for any woman, no matter who she is," Kreisberg said.
The jury began deliberating Tuesday afternoon and will resume today.
In the prosecution's closing statement, Deputy Dist. Atty. Rebecca G. Omens argued that a string of suspicious circumstances points strongly to Elizabeth Ozerson as the assailant.
There is no evidence linking Kreisberg to the killing, she said.
Elizabeth Ozerson testified that she walked her dog for 30 minutes the morning of the killing and returned home to find an intruder in the house. Panicked, she said she ran to a neighbor and summoned police, who found her husband dead in the family room but discovered no evidence of a struggle.
Several of his personal items were strewn around the room in what police said they believed was an effort to stage a bungled burglary.
Noray Ozerson was killed with his own .38-caliber gun, police said. He was shot him five times at close range, the first two bullets entering his back, according to coroner's officials.
Omens argued to the jury that Elizabeth Ozerson is the only person who could have approached within two or three feet of her husband without arousing his suspicion.
"She had the love of Bert Kreisberg that she wanted," Omens said. "And she had a domineering husband that she wanted to get away from."
Omens pointed to numerous lies that Ozerson told police as evidence of her guilt, including her statements that she and her husband got along well and were monogamous.
Testimony revealed that the Ozersons had a stormy relationship and slept in separate bedrooms. He became partly paralyzed in 1979 when he accidentally shot himself while cleaning his gun, police said.
Omens asserted that Elizabeth Ozerson found it difficult to leave her disabled husband, who walked with the aid of a cane, and concluded that her her only option was to kill him.
"We know she's a liar, we know she's an adulteress," Omens said.
"You look at those things and they provide motive. They provide insight into her character."
Most significant among the lies, Omens said, was Ozerson's repeated insistence during police interrogation that she had never handled a gun.
When tricked into believing that chemical tests revealed gunshot residue on the gloves she had worn the morning of the killing, Ozerson changed her story, saying that she had fired her husband's gun once the night before into the air in the backyard.
Baum maintained that police tests, conducted at the defense's request, supported Ozerson's statement about firing the gun the previous evening. Although the weapon never has been found, gunshot residue was found on the towel where Noray Ozerson stored the pistol each night.
In addition, Baum said, five bullets from the six-chamber weapon were found in the body, making it logical to conclude that the sixth had been fired earlier.
He told the jury that the identity of the real assailant may never be known. In addition to the veiled reference to Kreisberg, Ozerson's story about an intruder is entirely plausible, he said.
Ozerson calmly carried out her daily routine the morning of the killing, making it absurd to conclude that she was planning to kill her husband, the defense attorney argued.
"You don't make a man's lunch and put it in the car when you're going to kill him," he said.