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Son Tells of Mom's Role in Slaying

Kenneth Kimes testifies that he acted on her orders in the 1998 killing of a Granada Hills businessman, a longtime acquaintance.

June 18, 2004|Anna Gorman | Times Staff Writer

Convicted murderer Kenneth Kimes told jurors Thursday that he followed his mother's orders to shoot a businessman in the back of the head at the man's Granada Hills home. That evening, Kimes said, he gave his mother a kiss and a bouquet of flowers to celebrate.

Kimes, 29, testified at his mother's trial that she hatched the plan to kill David Kazdin because the longtime acquaintance discovered that the pair had taken a fraudulent loan out in his name.

"We're going to have to kill him," Sante Kimes told her son, according to his testimony in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Sante Kimes, who is charged with murder, wept through parts of the testimony. At one point, her son also wiped tears.

Kenneth Kimes pleaded guilty in November to murdering Kazdin, 63, and agreed to testify against his mother to avoid a possible death sentence. He is set to receive a term of life in state prison without parole.

The testimony, which had been scheduled for Wednesday, was postponed when Sante Kimes told officials at the county jail she had chest pains. Thursday morning, Judge Kathleen Kennedy-Powell reprimanded Kimes, saying that medical reports showed there was nothing wrong with her.

The notorious mother-son con artists were extradited to face charges here after they were convicted of murdering an elderly socialite in New York in a plot to get her multimillion-dollar mansion. If convicted of murdering Kazdin, Sante Kimes also will be sentenced to life without parole.

Prosecutors say Sante Kimes, 69, was the mastermind behind Kazdin's killing, but her defense attorneys say she had nothing to do with it. His body was discovered in a trash bin near Los Angeles International Airport in March 1998 and police arrested the Kimeses in New York in July of that year.

Sante Kimes planned the murder for March 13, 1998, her son testified, after Kazdin had discovered the loan and refused to say he had authorized it.

That morning, Sante Kimes wished her son luck and told him to do a good job, he said.

Kenneth Kimes testified that he and an accomplice, Shawn Little, went to Kazdin's house with trash bags, a .22-caliber gun, gloves and duct tape early that morning. Kimes confronted Kazdin about the loan, and Kazdin told him not to worry. Then Kimes followed Kazdin into the kitchen and took out the gun.

"I shot him in the back of the head," Kenneth Kimes testified, and added that he shot at point-blank range to "minimize the risk of error."

The two men cleaned up and threw Kazdin's body in the trunk of his own Jaguar, Kimes said, anddrove to an area near the airport, covered the body with trash bags and left it in a bin. They threw the gun and wallet out nearby.

Afterward, Kenneth Kimes testified, the two men ate, went to see the movie "The Man in the Iron Mask" and shopped for clothes.

Back at home that evening, Kimes gave his mother a kiss and the flowers and told her everything was OK.

When Deputy Dist. Atty. Eleanor Hunter asked the reason for the flowers, Kimes responded, "In my mind-set, I thought I had completed a great duty for my mom. It was a significant completion, and I wanted to celebrate."

Kimes said the plot began when his mother decided to take out a $280,000 loan on a Las Vegas home that had been put in Kazdin's name years earlier. Kimes said he and his mother both forged Kazdin's signature, and the bank funded the loan.

Then Sante Kimes obtained a fire insurance policy and instructed her son to set the house on fire, he testified. After the house went up in flames, she unsuccessfully tried to collect $500,000 from the insurance company, he said.

Meanwhile, Kazdin discovered the loan and called the bank, which began an investigation, Kenneth Kimes told jurors. He and his mother pressured Kazdin to lie about the loan, but he refused. In February 1998, they moved from Las Vegas to Los Angeles to have better access to him.

Prosecutors also presented several letters from mother to son, including one about possible alibis and another about trying to blame someone else for the murder.

Cross-examination of Kenneth Kimes will continue today.

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