Two and a half years after Delores Jackson drowned in his swimming pool, businessman Donald Bohana pleaded not guilty Wednesday to her murder and was ordered held in lieu of $1-million bail.
A short bail hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court depicted Bohana as a 60-year-old businessman with widespread contacts, a pilot's license--and more than $4 million in debts.
The family of Jackson's ex-husband, former Jackson 5 singer Tito Jackson, expressed relief at Bohana's indictment by a county grand jury.
The family always knew the drowning was no accident, said Jackson family matriarch Katherine Jackson, because Delores did not know how to swim and never would have gone near the water.
"We feel very strongly that he did it," said Jermaine Jackson, the slain woman's former brother-in-law and another ex-Jackson 5 member. "We're doing all we can to see justice is done."
A grand jury indictment of Bohana remained sealed. But what emerged from Wednesday's proceedings was an odd picture of a man with myriad and complex financial dealings.
Delores Jackson was 39 years old and had reportedly been dating Bohana for three weeks when she was pulled from the pool at his Ladera Heights home Aug. 27, 1994. At the time, her death was ruled accidental.
But in November of that year, the district attorney's office reopened the case, saying a coroner's report detailing cuts and bruises on Jackson's body indicated "blunt-force traumatic injuries."
The incident was the latest--and most serious--bit of notoriety for Bohana. In 1992, to the cheers of the community, he opened the first sit-down restaurant in Watts since the 1965 riots.
But his Denny's "N" the 'Hood was not a success. Two years after its much-ballyhooed opening, Bohana was ousted as manager and the franchise was taken over by Denny's officials, who said at the time that Bohana had failed to make payments on a $735,000 low-interest loan he used to build the establishment.
In 1982, Bohana bought the fast-sinking California Life Insurance Co. Six years later, the firm was cited as insolvent by the state, which placed it in conservatorship.
On Wednesday, even as his defense lawyers tried to persuade the judge that Bohana's many business deals would mean he was unlikely to flee prosecution, they added to the picture of their client as a wheeler-dealer with resources.
Defense attorney Anthony E. Alexander listed a host of his client's seemingly disparate business ventures including: a clothing deal with a Chinese company that could be worth $80,000, a $50,000 contract with a San Gabriel Valley school district to give children aviation training, a real estate job and a position as a bank loan agent.
Bohana also held or holds a variety of civic positions as a result of appointments by city and county leaders, including former Mayor Tom Bradley, Alexander said.
Bohana had been held without bail since his arrest Friday. In granting bail Wednesday, Judge John Reid ruled that Bohana's long ties to Los Angeles and cooperation with police thus far balanced out his foreign business ties and mounting debt.