A San Diego jury heard opening statements Monday in the murder trial of Virginia Reardon, who is accused of planning and participating in the killing of a woman in order to collect on a life insurance policy.
Reardon is accused of murdering Deana Hubbard Wild by pushing her off a cliff along U.S. 1 near Big Sur on April 2, 1987.
Wild died one day after Reardon made the first payment on a $35,000 life insurance policy, and prosecutors have charged Reardon with the special circumstance of murder for financial gain, which could lead to the death penalty.
Reardon and her former husband, Billie Joe McGinnis, were charged two years after Wild plunged more than 300 feet to her death. McGinnis is not on trial because he died in custody Dec. 1, reportedly from an AIDS-related pneumonia.
In his opening statement, Deputy Dist. Atty. Luis Aragon portrayed Wild as a "naive, 20-year-old country girl from Kentucky."
Aragon gave the jury his theory of the events that led to Reardon and her then-husband pushing Wild off the cliff at a turnout known as Grimes Point.
Although Aragon did not overtly accuse either person of actually pushing Wild, he presented a series of events--notably Reardon's purchase of the insurance policy--which he said constituted a conspiracy between Reardon and McGinnis.
"This is a chilling case of greed and deception," Aragon said.
Although Aragon said Wild was lured to her death, defense attorney Albert Tamayo portrayed the victim in a very different light.
After moving from Kentucky to San Diego with a new husband, a sailor on the aircraft carrier Kittyhawk, Wild went from a country girl to a dope dealer, Tamayo said.
Although Wild "would steal checks and Valium from her own mother," her lifestyle quickly degenerated to the point that she was indiscriminately sleeping with other drug users, Tamayo told the jury.
Tamayo said Wild's husband, Jay Wild, will testify that his last vision of his new wife was of her in the arms of another man.
Tamayo said he will present evidence to demonstrate that Wild slipped on the dangerous cliffs above the Pacific, and that Grimes Point is too well-traveled to serve as a place to murder someone.
Reardon is being held in lieu of $5-million bail. The trial is expected to last two months.