The attorney for one of two former Los Angeles police officers accused of the contract killing of a Northridge businessman whose body has never been found told jurors in closing arguments Wednesday there is no evidence that the man is dead or that his client killed him.
The man, Thomas Weed, may have secretly fled in fear of his life after learning that his ex-wife was seeking to kill him, said Richard P. Lasting, attorney for Richard Herman Ford.
Ford, 48, of Northridge, and Robert Von Villas, 44, of Simi Valley, are being tried in Van Nuys Superior Court by separate juries on suspicion of murder and conspiracy to murder Weed in exchange for $20,000 from Weed's ex-wife, Janie E. Ogilvie of Canoga Park.
If Weed is dead, the evidence links Von Villas, not Ford, to murder, Lasting said. The only witness to implicate Ford is Ogilvie, whom Lasting described as a polished liar who "can charm your socks off."
Weed, 52, a former debt collector, disappeared from his Northridge apartment on Feb. 23, 1983. Prosecutors allege that the two former officers killed him and buried his body in the desert.
The two face the death penalty if convicted. The Von Villas defense portion of the trial begins Monday.