The unsolved slaying of corrections officer Elizabeth Ann Begaren in January has left her family devastated but determined to find her killer with the help of $50,000 in additional reward money from Gov. Pete Wilson's office.
"I just hope with this reward offered by the governor someone who knows something will come forward," said Begaren's father, Robert Wheat, 64, of Apple Valley. "It will help the family and her friends. Right now, we can't live with this."
During a news conference Monday at the police station in Anaheim, Wheat and detectives working on the case made a plea for help in the arrest and conviction of those responsible for Begaren's death.
Police said that they need a break in the case. "I hope somebody calls who has information for me," Det. Fred Pittington said. "I need some help."
A total reward of $60,000 is being offered in the hope of finding leads. Last February, the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. offered the initial $10,000 reward as an incentive to solve the case. Wilson added to the fund at the request of Anaheim Police Chief Randall Gaston.
On Jan. 17, Begaren, 40, a guard at Lancaster State Prison, was killed on a Riverside Freeway onramp in Anaheim. Her husband, Nuzzio Begaren of Bell, and her 10-year-old stepdaughter were in the car with her and witnessed the shooting. Nuzzio Begaren told authorities their vehicle was forced off the road by gunmen in another car who robbed them of $4,800 after his wife flashed her officer's badge.
Police said a handgun was used in the killing, but no weapon has been found.
Nuzzio Begaren, who was invited but did not attend Monday's news conference, has remained uncooperative with authorities and is considered a suspect, Anaheim Lt. John Haradon said.
Haradon said there are other suspects.
Police have not ruled out the possibility that Begaren's death was a murder for hire, he said.
Elizabeth Begaren's brother, Andre Wheat, 30, of Victorville, called it frustrating that an arrest has not been made, especially because his brother-in-law won't step forward to help.
"I know if something happened to my wife, I'd be here," Andre Wheat said, adding that since his sister's death his family has not had contact with Begaren.
Nuzzio Begaren took out a $1-million life insurance policy--which has not been paid--on his wife a week after they married in Las Vegas in July 1997, family members said.
"Any time anyone marries someone and then takes out a $1-million life insurance policy, there's something wrong there," Robert Wheat said.
Police ask that anyone with information about the case call (714) 765-1582.