New technology or DNA evidence often helps crack decades-old slaying cases, but in the case of 58-year-old Archie McFarland, years of inconsistent testimony finally sealed the fate of his killer.
"The passage of time played to this case's advantage," Deputy Dist. Atty. John Lewin said. "Lies are hard to remember. The truth never changes."
On Wednesday, more than 25 years after McFarland was stabbed to death outside his Torrance home, L.A. County Superior Court Judge Mark S. Arnold sentenced Janos Kulcsar, now 60, to 26 years to life in prison.
"The evidence was overwhelming that the only person in the world with a motive to commit this crime is the defendant," Arnold said.
Kulcsar was the first and only suspect in the Dec. 9, 1985, killing. Police arrested him the morning of the slaying, believing that he had killed McFarland so that he could continue his three-year affair with McFarland's wife, Mary Ann.
But he was released after prosecutors found insufficient evidence to file charges.
For 17 years, the case went cold. McFarland's wife resumed her relationship with Kulcsar, who continued to live and work in Long Beach.
Lewin reopened the case in 2002, concluding that Kulcsar was the only person with a motive to kill McFarland.
Mary Ann McFarland had ended the affair in the weeks before the stabbing and moved back home with her husband. Prosecutors said Kulcsar had become increasingly upset and threatening — and once even showed up at the McFarlands' home with a gun.
After McFarland died of five stab wounds, his family immediately blamed Kulcsar.
Police lacked physical evidence but recorded multiple inconsistent interviews with Kulcsar over the years. He gave four different alibis for the morning of the stabbing.
"He killed Archie McFarland, and he could not keep his lies straight," Lewin said. "He sunk his own boat."
In 2010, he was charged with first-degree murder. During a three-week trial last year, Mary Ann McFarland, who prosecutors do not believe was involved in the killing, was the key witness. Lewin said she did not want to believe that Kulcsar was responsible.
Prosecutors painted McFarland as a "low-risk" victim: a non-confrontational man who knowingly allowed his 49-year-old wife to continue an affair with a younger man. The love triangle was the only possible motive, prosecutors said.
The defense argued that the evidence was all circumstantial. But it was enough for the jury, who found Kulcsar guilty.
In a Torrance courtroom Wednesday, as McFarland's children spoke during the sentencing hearing, Kulcsar kept his head bowed, showing no emotion.
McFarland's daughter, Linda, told the court she "held no bitterness" toward Kulcsar and just wanted both families to move on.
"I hate what you did, but I don't hate you," McFarland's son, Gary, said to Kulcsar.
"It took 25 years, but I really appreciate that the system does actually work," he said, his voice breaking.
Mary Ann McFarland, now in her 70s, hugged her children after they spoke to the court.
"It's just a tragedy for all those involved," she said. "For my family and for his family."
Kulcsar plans to file an appeal, his attorney said.