>> Wednesday, October 27, 2010
I ran into a story on the internet yesterday that reminded me so much of my brief time writing for City Confidential that I had to share it here. It's got all the makings of a great City Confidential episode: a semi-famous perpetrator, a silly motive, a botched crime, and a colorful supporting cast. Truly, this story is worth bringing the show back for an encore episode.
So, first the teaser: Chef Juan-Carlos Cruz made a name for himself serving up low-calorie pastry treats on TV--but when this "Calorie Commando" tried to trim the fat by hiring two homeless men to kill his wife, his cookie crumbled.
Here's what happened, according to a CNN story:
Former TV chef Juan-Carlos Cruz faces nine years in prison after pleading "no contest" Tuesday to a charge of soliciting two homeless men to kill his wife, the prosecutor said.
The former host of the Food Network's "Calorie Commando" will be sentenced on December 13, but the plea agreement calls for a nine-year sentence, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said.
One count of attempted murder was dropped as part of the plea settlement, the prosecutor said.
Fertility issues were at the center of Cruz's motivation in the murder-for-hire plot to kill his wife, according to sources close to the couple.
Two sources close the couple, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said their 20-year struggle to have a child overwhelmed them.
After spending a lot of money on unsuccessful fertility treatments, Cruz's wife, Jennifer Campbell, was "very depressed and talked about suicide," one source said.
The sources suggested she may have wanted to end her life but that as a devout Roman Catholic, she believed suicide was a sin.
So, I guess he was just trying to help her out then? But it's all cool:
The source closest to Campbell said she still loves her husband despite his arrest.
The source closest to Cruz, 48, said he was "nothing but a loving and devoted husband."
I just hope, someday, that I can do something as loving and devoted for Wendi.
The story begins to reach Elmore Leonard proportions with the supporting cast, which includes two indistinguishably Rosencrantz-and-Guildenstern-like homeless men named "Big Dave" and "Little Dave."
The criminal complaint accused Cruz of trying to hire David Carrington and David Walters -- homeless men who go by the street names Little Dave and Big Dave -- to murder Campbell. It was not immediately clear who was Little Dave and who was Big Dave.
The homeless men solicited to carry out the hit spoke with celebrity news and gossip website TMZ soon after the arrest. One of them called Cruz "very meticulous" but "very cheap" in his planning.
Well, you get what you pay for, I suppose.
The plan fell apart when one of the men whom Cruz allegedly recruited told Santa Monica police, Sgt. Jay Trisler said. Trisler confirmed that the men interviewed by TMZ were the chief witnesses against Cruz.
Little Dave told TMZ that he was approached first by Cruz, who asked him to kill his wife for cash, and he told his friend Big Dave.
Big Dave said he told a Santa Monica police officer about the plot after he was arrested for loitering.
"We're very fortunate that we have a relationship and rapport with some of the homeless and that they were able to give us information," Trisler said.
Yeah. Some "relationship." I've seen enough crime show episodes to read between the lines here. "Big Dave" got picked up for loitering charges, and he rolled over on Cruz to get out of it.
Santa Monica police began their undercover investigation of Cruz on May 7, Trisler said. Cruz was arrested at a dog park in the Cheviot Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles on Thursday afternoon, he said.
This had to be a sting operation at the dog park!
Big Dave and Little Dave got a place to stay while the investigation was under way. Santa Monica police put them in a hotel room to keep them out of sight, Big Dave said.
"They gave us two pizzas, a 12-pack of beer and a bottle of San Jose," he said. "I love them."
Awesome. I love the image of these two guys living it up with beer, pizza, and cable TV at the hotel.
Predictably, the Food Network was quick to distance themselves:
The Food Network issued a short statement Monday saying Cruz "has not been under contract or associated with Food Network for a number of years."
Good stuff, made all the better since there was no actual murder! I wonder if Cruz has already sold the TV rights? Or maybe I could get the rights from Big Dave for a couple of pizzas...