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Woman to Stand Trial in Husband's Killing

February 06, 1991

The West Hills widow of a slain transmission shop owner, who was originally thought to have been shot for his Rolex watch, has been ordered to stand trial on charges of arranging his murder to collect on his $400,000 life insurance.

Catherine Thompson, 42, was also ordered held without bail on charges of murder, conspiracy and a special allegation of murder for financial gain that would make her eligible for the death penalty if convicted, Deputy District Atty. Katherine Mader said.

Also charged in the shooting were Phillip Conrad Sanders, 37, the alleged gunman; his wife, Carolyn Sanders, 37, who allegedly picked up a $1,500 advance payment for the killing; and Carolyn Sanders' son Robert Lewis Jones, 20, who allegedly drove the getaway car, Mader said.

On Monday, Los Angeles Municipal Judge Patti Jo MaKay ordered the three held without bail after a three-day preliminary hearing, Mader said.

Melvin Thompson, 49, was gunned down about 7 p.m. June 14 as he closed his auto-service shop on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles. His Rolex watch was taken along with an undetermined amount of cash, leading investigators to believe at first that he was a victim in a string of robberies involving the expensive watches.

But his wife of 10 years and the Sanderses were arrested Aug. 29, Mader said, after police learned that Catherine Thompson and Phillip Conrad Sanders had impersonated others to obtain a fraudulent $100,000 bank loan. Mader said Phillip Sanders posed as the dead Melvin Thompson and Catherine Thompson pretended to be Thompson's ex-wife in an attempt to borrow money, using as collateral a house that Phillip Sanders and his ex-wife owned together.

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