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Jury Convicts Man of Killing His Parents

Los Angeles

Courts: Jeffrey Duvardo of Valencia stabbed them in their home after they asked him to repay a $30,000 loan. He faces a possible death penalty.

December 20, 2001|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN and RICHARD FAUSSET | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A Valencia man was convicted Wednesday of killing his elderly parents after tricking them out of $30,000 in order to finance his new wife's dream home, authorities said.

Jeffrey Duvardo, 44, was convicted of elder abuse and two counts of first-degree murder with a special circumstance by a jury of seven men and five women in a Northern California courtroom.

The Lake County jury found that Duvardo fatally stabbed Don and Mary Ann Duvardo on March 31, 1999, in their retirement home in Nice, Calif., a lakeside village about 90 miles north of San Francisco.

Duvardo now faces a possible death sentence. The penalty phase of his trial begins Jan. 8.

Duvardo's attorney, Stephen Tulanian, said his client, who maintains his innocence, was disappointed by the verdict.

"His concern right now seems to be with what life will be like for his daughter and his wife, Molly [Koffman]. . . . He could be locked up for a long time, or life, or worse, and there's a stigma attached."

During the trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Koffman was one of Duvardo's two wives at the time of the slaying. While still wed to his first wife, records show that he married Koffman, settling with the avid horsewoman in an upscale tract home near the ranch country of San Francisquito Canyon.

Duvardo, a former Boeing employee who had twice tried unsuccessfully for a career as a police officer, had told his parents he was a CIA operative who would be killed if he didn't come up with the money to complete a multimillion-dollar arms deal. Believing their son, the couple loaned him $30,000 from their meager retirement fund in November 1998, prosecutors argued.

Months later, on April 6, 1999, a neighbor found the bodies of Don and Mary Ann Duvardo. Mary Ann, 70, was attacked from behind as she sat at a desk. The killer slashed her throat before stabbing her in the head several times.

Don Duvardo, 76, was stabbed 15 times in the chest as he entered the house after retrieving firewood. His hands were cut to the bone, a sign that he fought for his life, investigators said.

In court, Lake County Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Jon Hopkins argued that Duvardo killed his parents after they asked him to repay the loan, afraid that the "tangled web" he spun would unravel.

As evidence, the prosecutor introduced a sample from a blood-stained towel found in the elder couple's home that tests showed contained Duvardo's DNA. Hopkins also produced rental car records to show Duvardo drove more than 1,100 miles on the day of the killings, enough to get from Southern California to Nice and back.

On Wednesday, Tulanian said he thought the rental car evidence was the most damning, though he said he still doubted the accuracy of the rental agency's records.

Hopkins was pleased that the jury was persuaded by his 5 1/2-hour closing argument, which included allusions to Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott. "It was a difficult case for the jury in light of the fact that we relied wholly on circumstantial evidence," Hopkins said. "Obviously, I believe it was the correct verdict or I would not have pursued it."

Duvardo grew up in Santa Monica and was a standout football player at Santa Monica High School. Duvardo family members said Wednesday they were devastated by the ordeal. Jim Duvardo said he and his sister, Janet, began to suspect something was wrong with their brother's story long before he was arrested.

"To be honest, I'm satisfied the person responsible was brought to justice," said Duvardo, 50, of Petaluma. "And I'm equally saddened that it's my brother. It's somebody that we grew up with. We loved him. I still love him."

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