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Man Charged With Killing Woman, 21

Victim's body was found in a Hollywood Hills ravine after she was to have met photographer.

May 13, 2003|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

A man twice convicted of luring young women with false promises of entertainment jobs was charged with capital murder Monday in the slaying of Kristine Johnson, whose body was found in a Hollywood Hills ravine 16 days after she vanished.

Victor Lawrence Paleologus is accused of killing the 21-year-old Santa Monica woman during an attempted rape Feb. 15, the day she disappeared after telling a roommate that she was going to meet a photographer in Beverly Hills.

If convicted, Paleologus, 40, could face the death penalty because Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Eleanor Hunter included in the murder charge the special circumstance allegations of lying in wait and murder during the commission of a crime -- the attempted rape.

Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, said a decision on whether to seek capital punishment or life in prison without parole has yet to be made.

Two days after Johnson vanished, Paleologus was arrested Feb. 17 by Beverly Hills police on an unrelated car theft charge and for probation violation. He had been out of prison, where he served a sentence for burglary, for less than a month.

On Monday, prosecutors charged him with the theft of a BMW, identity theft, filing a false financial statement, forgery, burglary and receiving stolen property.

Johnson's partially clad body was found by hikers March 3 in a ravine in the 8500 block of Skyline Drive.

In 1991, Paleologus was tried on charges of attempted rape, assault and false imprisonment of a young woman he had allegedly lured to a hotel room with a promise that she would meet Hollywood celebrities, including Madonna. After a jury deadlocked, he entered a guilty plea to false imprisonment by violence and was sentenced to three years' probation.

Before disappearing, Johnson told her roommate she had met a photographer at the Century City Shopping Center, and he had offered her an audition.

Santa Monica Police Chief James T. Butts Jr. said detectives have evidence that establishes that man -- now identified as Paleologus -- was present at the mall Feb. 15.

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