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Murder Trial Ordered for Developer : Crime: James N. Hood of Newport Beach is accused of murdering a former employee who was acquitted of killing Hood's wife.

April 01, 1992|ROSE KIM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

FONTANA — A Newport Beach developer was ordered Tuesday to stand trial on a charge of killing a former employee who was acquitted last year of murdering the suspect's wife.

Municipal Judge Douglas A. Fettel scheduled an April 10 arraignment for James N. Hood, 48, in San Bernardino County Superior Court. Hood is accused in the March 2 shooting death of Bruce E. Beauchamp, 31, a maintenance supervisor.

Hood has been charged with murder with the special allegation of lying in wait for the victim at Hood's office in the Mission Plaza mall he owns just outside of Fontana. If convicted, he could face the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole, prosecutors said.

Hood, dressed in an orange prison suit and brown plastic sandals, remained impassive as Fettel bound him over for trial after seven days of testimony. Remaining seated after the judge left the courtroom, he consulted his attorney, Philip C. Bourdette, for almost 10 minutes before being handcuffed and led away from the courtroom.

"He was disappointed, of course," Bourdette said of his client. "This is not a guy who spends his time in jail."

Bourdette criticized the court for allowing the testimony of the victim's wife, Sharon Beauchamp, describing her as "a dope fiend with a record and with every reason to lie."

But Deputy Dist. Atty. David Whitney said, "The judge made a reasonable, intelligent ruling."

Whitney agreed that Sharon Beauchamp's character is "not great" but added that "even a bad man can tell the truth."

"The scientific evidence exposes Jim Hood for the shrewd murderer he is," Whitney said.

The most compelling evidence, Whitney said, was the gunshot residue on the victim's palms, the blood spattered about the victim's hand--but not on the gun found in his hand--and the pathologist's testimony.

The prosecution maintains that Hood shot Beauchamp then planted a gun on him to make the shooting look as if it was a self-defense reaction.

During the preliminary hearing, the prosecution called four witnesses and several criminal specialists. Sharon Beauchamp and two of her friends, Scott Stein and Sean Earwood, testified that Beauchamp was left-handed; the gun was found in his right hand.

Arlene Still, Hood's secretary, said Beauchamp called her boss twice on the day of the shooting. prosecutors said.

When Hood learned about the first call, he agreed to talk with Beauchamp when he called back, Whitney said.

Within half an hour, Beauchamp walked in, "seeming perfectly happy," Whitney said. "Someone closed the door, and within four seconds, the shots rang out--two, then a pause, then the rest of them."

Pathologist Edward Yaeger testified that Beauchamp was shot seven times, with five of the bullets shot after he was lying on the floor.

The first bullet entered the torso as if it penetrated when he was standing erect. The second lodged in the skull and would have made him fall and lose consciousness. Bruises caused by gunpowder indicated that he was shot the five other times at close range.

In the sensational case, which has attracted national attention, Sharon Beauchamp testified that her husband had told her that Hood had paid him $50,000 to kill his wife, Bonnie Hood.

According to prosecutors, Hood received $3 million in insurance money after his wife was fatally shot in August, 1990, at the Camp Nelson Lodge, a resort in the southern Sierra that the Hoods owned.

Beauchamp was tried for Bonnie Hood's murder last year and acquitted.

Whitney said that Hood is considered to be a suspect in the death of his wife but that no charges have been filed against him.

In a jailhouse interview with The Times on March 4, Hood said he shot Beauchamp in self-defense.

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