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Son Convicted in the 'Ninja Murders'

March 08, 1990|LOIS TIMNICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Stewart Woodman, one of two brothers charged with contracting for the 1985 murder of their parents as the couple returned to their Brentwood home from a family gathering, was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder and conspiracy.

After eight days of deliberations, a jury found the 40-year-old Hidden Hills man guilty in the slaying of Gerald and Vera Woodman, who were gunned down as they parked their Mercedes-Benz in the underground garage of their luxury condominium after attending a family dinner on Yom Kippur, the Jewish holy day of atonement.

The slayings were dubbed the "Yom Kippur murders" or "Ninja murders," after an eyewitness apparently confused a hooded black sweat shirt worn by one of the killers with the type of clothing worn by Japan's legendary martial arts warriors.

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner said prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Woodman and Anthony Majoy, 51, of Reseda, a lookout during the slayings, who was convicted on similar charges last week. The only other option open to the jury is life without possibility of parole.

The penalty phase is set to begin March 21.

Woodman was "devastated" by the verdicts, according to his attorney, Jay Jaffe.

"He always knew, based on the circumstantial nature of the evidence, that this was a possibility. So in that way it doesn't come as a shock," he said, adding: "It doesn't make that hurt any less, though."

Jaffe said the verdicts will be appealed, regardless of the sentence.

Woodman showed no emotion as the verdicts were read. But some of his relatives and friends who packed the courtroom left in tears as another chapter ended in the twisted family drama.

One defense attorney, in closing arguments, had called the case a "play of the greatest human tragedy that I have ever had occasion to be part of."

Woodman's wife of 19 years, Melody, said she was "dazed" and concerned for the couple's three children, the youngest of whom is 11.

"It's been a nightmare," she said.

Prosecutors contend that Stewart Woodman and his brother, Neil, 46, of Encino, hired former Westside attorney Robert Homick, 39, and his brother, former Los Angeles police officer Steven Homick, to carry out the killings.

Neil Woodman and the Homicks are to be tried later this year.

The motive allegedly was hatred for their successful father and a desire to cash in on their mother's $500,000 life insurance policy.

The family had been torn apart for years by a struggle for control of a Chatsworth plastics firm that pitted father and sons against each other, and resulted in several lawsuits and the sons' refusal to let Gerald and Vera Woodman see their grandchildren.

In closing arguments, Deputy Dist. Atty. John Zajec described the case as one of "hate and greed."

"It's about how Stewart and Neil Woodman's hatred for their parents combined with their need to live like millionaires while trying to salvage their failing business led them to have their mother and father killed--their mother for the insurance money, their father out of pure hatred."

The prosecutor said one of the alleged killers stalked the couple for more than a year before striking.

Witnesses testified that Stewart Woodman made no secret of his hatred for his parents.

However, Jaffe said the younger brother was guilty of nothing more than "trying to build his business too fast, associating with the wrong people, and saying things he never should have said."

The defense claimed that the killers were hired by Neil Woodman. Steven Homick, 49, the alleged triggerman, has already been sentenced to death in Nevada on his conviction for a triple murder in Las Vegas.

Another suspect, alleged lookout Michael Dominguez, 30, of Las Vegas, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years to life. Dominguez backed out of the deal he had made with prosecutors to testify against the other defendants. However, a videotape and transcripts of his preliminary hearing testimony were introduced as evidence in the 10-month-long trial.

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