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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

Ex-Boyfriend Testifies in Nieves Murder Trial

May 23, 2000

SAN FERNANDO — In the months before the house fire that killed her four daughters and injured her son, Sandi Nieves said she planned to commit suicide because she was despondent over a breakup, her ex-boyfriend testified Monday in her capital murder trial.

Scott Volk--the first of three men to testify about their stormy relationships with the Saugus mother accused of murdering her daughters--told jurors about their on-again, off-again romance that ended weeks before the fire in 1998.

Prosecutors allege that Nieves was desperate and angry after her three failed relationships, and killed her children during a suicide attempt to take revenge on the men, including an ex-husband with whom she was engaged in a custody and child support battle. They contend that the mother gathered her children in the kitchen for a slumber party, then started the fire.

The 36-year-old woman is charged with four counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and arson causing great bodily injuries. If convicted, she faces a possible death penalty. Her public defender has argued that Nieves lacked criminal intent and suggested that someone else started the fire.

Volk, now 27, said he began dating the mother of five after they met over the Internet, and it was after one of their several breakups that she threatened suicide, he said. "She told me that she was going to send the kids away, write a letter to let everyone know and she was going to kill herself," Volk said. "She said she was upset because I left her."

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