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Husband is found guilty of arranging estranged wife's slaying in Century City

Ventura County businessman James Fayed is found guilty of masterminding the 2008 fatal stabbing of his estranged wife in a Century City parking garage.

May 20, 2011|By Jack Leonard, Los Angeles Times
  • James Fayed, 48, left -- with attorneys Steve Meister, center, and Mark Werksman, right -- listens as the jury's verdict is read Thursday. Fayed was found guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder related to the 2008 stabbing death of his estranged wife in a Century City parking garage.
James Fayed, 48, left -- with attorneys Steve Meister, center, and Mark… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)

A Ventura County businessman was found guilty Thursday of masterminding the 2008 fatal stabbing of his estranged wife in a Century City parking garage, a crime that prosecutors say was hatched as the couple waged a bitter and potentially expensive divorce.

James Fayed, 48, who could face the death penalty, whispered to his attorney but showed no emotion as a clerk in the downtown Los Angeles courtroom read the verdict. The victim's adult daughter closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

"The family's reaction is relief to have this part over so that we can … continue on the healing process," Scott Goudie, whose sister was stabbed 13 times in the attack, said outside court. "It is a roller coaster of emotion from day to day."

Prosecutors accused Fayed of paying a worker on his Moorpark ranch $25,000 to organize the killing of his wife, Pamela, with the help of two alleged gang members.

Defense attorney Mark Werksman described the verdict as "a terrible tragedy" for his client. He said Fayed was saddened and terrified, though not surprised, by the outcome.

"Pamela has been brutally murdered, and now Jim stands convicted of a crime he insists he did not commit," Werksman said.

During the trial, Werksman argued that one of Fayed's sisters was responsible for arranging the killing. Another sister testified last week that her older sister called two months before the slaying and asked whether her husband would kill Pamela Fayed in return for $200,000, Werksman said.

The jury of eight men and four women spent about two days deliberating before finding Fayed guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Jurors must now determine whether Fayed should be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison. The penalty phase of the trial is scheduled to begin Friday.

At the time of the killing, the Fayeds were embroiled in a contentious divorce. Pamela Fayed, 44, was attacked July 28, 2008, by a hooded assailant on the third floor of the parking garage after a meeting earlier that afternoon with her husband and their lawyers.

The man fled with two accomplices in a red Suzuki SUV that had been rented by the Fayeds' business, Goldfinger Inc., authorities said. Though the vehicle was cleaned before it was returned to the rental company, police found Pamela Fayed's blood inside.

Pamela had been seeking $66,000 a month in support and attorneys fees and was wrestling with her husband for control of their international gold trading business. Her lawyer had filed court papers seeking nearly $1 million in sanctions and other fees from James Fayed. A court hearing was scheduled for the day after she was killed.

Prosecutors argued that James Fayed also feared that his wife was preparing to cooperate with a federal investigation into their business practices. He was later arrested on an indictment accusing him of making unlicensed money transactions, though the case was eventually dismissed.

Key to the prosecution's case was an alleged confession Fayed made to another inmate while awaiting trial on the federal white collar case. His federal jail cellmate was secretly cooperating with authorities, who fitted the inmate with a wire. During their conversation, Fayed discussed his role in arranging the slaying and then sought the inmate's help to kill the people who carried out the stabbing of his wife, prosecutor said.

Fayed described his wife as "money-grubbing" and said he could not simply pay her off. "She just ran her mouth too much," Fayed said on the recording, which was played in court.

jack.leonard@latimes.com

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