Michael J. Hardy, accused of murdering his wife and burying her body in his back yard five years ago, argued with the victim for hours the day she disappeared, the defendant's daughter testified in Van Nuys Municipal Court on Monday.
Cheryl Hardy also said she saw that her stepmother, Deborah Hardy, had been temporarily knocked unconscious during the argument at the couple's Canoga Park home on Thanksgiving Day, 1985.
Hardy's testimony came during a preliminary hearing on the murder charge against Michael Hardy, 46, who has pleaded not guilty.
Hardy, now of La Jolla, was arrested Nov. 2 after Los Angeles police unearthed a body, later identified as Deborah Hardy, in the back yard of the former Hardy home in the 20600 block of Sherman Way.
Police were acting on a tip from the suspect's 25-year-old son, Robert, who told investigators that his father enlisted him to help bury his stepmother after the elder Hardy had killed her by striking her with a flashlight.
Police said the son, a California prison inmate, told them that he had been bothered by the crime for years. He does not face charges.
Michael Hardy, an unemployed actor, was described as a mob hit man in an appearance on the TV show "Geraldo" and in a 1977 profile in New York magazine. Los Angeles police said they have no evidence linking him to other killings.
In court Monday, Judith Samuel, executive director of the Haven Hills shelter for battered women, said that on the day before Thanksgiving, 1985, Deborah Hardy came to the shelter, saying she and her daughter, Debra, had been beaten by her husband. Samuel said they left after being told that authorities would be contacted.
Cheryl Hardy, of San Diego, testified that on Thanksgiving Day, she emerged from her room to find her stepmother unconscious on the floor.
Cheryl Hardy said her stepmother later regained consciousness but the next day was gone. When she asked her father what happened, "he said that she had left," Cheryl Hardy testified.
Michael Hardy, held without bail in Van Nuys Jail, has three prior felony convictions for assault with a deadly weapon, child stealing and assault on a police officer with a firearm.
According to court records, Deborah Hardy sought a restraining order in 1985 to keep her husband away from her, claiming he had broken seven of her ribs, damaged her spleen and beaten her daughter.