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Orange County

Vasco Defense Shifts the Blame

November 19, 2002|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

Attorneys defending Adriana Vasco, accused of hiring a hit man to kill the wife of her lover, on Monday blamed the man accused of pulling the trigger.

Prosecutors say that Vasco, 35, who is a medical secretary, and anesthesiologist Kenneth Stahl, 57, launched the plan to kill Stahl's wife, optometrist Carolyn Oppy-Stahl, 44, but that it went awry.

The doctor and his wife were slain on a stretch of Ortega Highway in November 1999. Stahl was to have driven his wife to the slaying site on a pretext but ended up being killed with her, the prosecution says.

Dennis Earl Godley, 32, Vasco's boyfriend and a handyman at her Anaheim apartment complex, is accused of killing the couple and faces trial next year.

Vasco, prosecutors say, had carried on an affair with the doctor, who gave her gifts and complained about his wife, whom he wanted to divorce but didn't because he feared he'd lose money.

Defense attorneys suggested that Godley had beaten Vasco and that she was under his control.

They portrayed him as an armed, abusive and controlling man with an explosive temper.

Richard Anaya, an electrician who did work at Stahl's Huntington Beach townhome, testified Monday in Orange County Superior Court that he was recruited to kill Stahl's wife but had turned down the offer.

Anaya said Stahl told him: "I need someone to take care of my wife. Do you know anybody?"

"I thought he had been drinking," Anaya said. "Finally, I told him to stop right there."

Belen Lopez, who lived in the same apartment complex as Vasco, said Godley kept a shotgun behind the front door and carried it around the complex several times.

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