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Former TV chef insisted that wife's would-be killer not harm dogs

Newly released court documents show that onetime Food Network chef Juan-Carlos Cruz also told a homeless man to consider strangulation with pantyhose to avoid leaving a 'bloody mess.'

December 15, 2010|By Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times
  • Juan-Carlos Cruz's murder plot planning included photographs of his residence, potential escape routes, locations of building surveillance cameras and security codes.
Juan-Carlos Cruz's murder plot planning included photographs of… (Damian Dovarganes / Associated…)

Former Food Network chef Juan-Carlos Cruz told a homeless man he hired to kill his wife to avoid harming his two dogs and consider strangulation with pantyhose to avoid leaving a "bloody mess," according to newly released court documents obtained by The Times.

The documents show Cruz elaborately planned how he wanted his wife killed and even provided doggie treats so his dogs would not bark.

Cruz did not know that the homeless man, David Carrington, was cooperating with Santa Monica police detectives as he and Carrington sat in a car near Cruz's Westwood condominium May 12 to go over the murder plot.

The planning included photographs of the residence, potential escape routes, locations of building surveillance cameras and security codes, according to the 22-page report released Monday. Cruz talked about killing his wife with Carrington and another homeless man, David Walters.

Cruz "asked Walters to strangle the victim and to use pantyhose to strangle her if he wanted, and said something to the effect of, 'If it ends up bloody, that's fine ... but I prefer not to have a mess,' " the document states.

Cruz was sentenced to nine years in state prison after pleading no contest in October to attempted solicitation of murder.

Shawn Chapman Holley, Cruz's attorney, would not comment on the probation

report.

Cruz must serve half his prison term before he is eligible for parole, Los Angeles

County Superior Court Judge Chester Horn had said.

The sentence brings to a close a case that stunned those who knew Cruz and his wife, Jennifer Campbell, his high school sweetheart and a Los Angeles attorney. Campbell declined to comment on the case.

Cruz is best known as a lively cooking personality with television appearances on the Food Network and Discovery Channel and for several books, including "The Love Diet."

Cruz told detectives when he was arrested that his wife had been "going through a midlife crisis" after unsuccessfully trying fertility treatments for more than a decade, according to the report. The couple spent more than $200,000 on fertility treatments and Cruz said he believed that killing his wife was "a 'merciful' way to end her suffering."

Cruz, who told detectives he had considered taking his own life, said that Mother's Day was especially painful for his wife and that he could not bear seeing her. When investigators asked Cruz when he began looking for someone to kill his wife, he told them that he had been looking for several weeks and wanted the task completed by Mother's Day.

The plot began to unravel May 7 when a homeless man was arrested for illegal camping and told investigators that his friend had been asked to carry out a murder for which he was given $1,000, a throwaway cellphone and a box cutter.

The initial plan was for Walters to slash Campbell's throat with a box cutter before Cruz was to pick her up at Westwood Boulevard and Wellworth Avenue. But Cruz changed his mind and decided to make the killing look like a botched burglary at his residence.

But detectives had been in on the planning all along, according to the document. In the final meeting, Walters was told to be out by 7 p.m., when the victim's trainer would come to the residence. At the residence, Walters was handed a baggie of dog treats and told he would need them to keep the dogs quiet.

On May 13, investigators arrested Cruz without incident at a Cheviot Hills park. Walters, 44, died Sept. 14, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's office. The cause of death was not released.

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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