The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on September 24, 1990 · Page 3
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · Page 3

Los Angeles, California
Issue Date:
Monday, September 24, 1990
Page 3
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MONDAY. S1:ITI-MHI:K 24. I'M) A3 i os AN(ii:i.i:s timhs California and the West MURDER: Trial Set for Husband Continued from Al the case against the 49-year-old Montecalvo is circumstantial. There was no eyewitness to the slaying, and no murder weapon has ever been found. But prosecutors portray Moniecaivo as an ex-convict knowledgeable about guns, saddled with gambling debts and desperate for money who killed his wife to cash in on 3600,000 in life insurance policies ana collected more than half of it. Aceordine to nrosecutors, Montecalvo mur dered his wife with a ,38-caliber revolver shortly before 11 p.m., hours betore tne couple's scheduled departure for a Hawaiian vacation. They allege that he then, in a chillingly calculated move, shot himself in the back with a .25-caliber handgun hoping to inflict a minor wouna ana ouuress ins oiuiy that his wife's killer was a panicked burglar. . Montecalvo and his attorney, however, scoff at that scenario. They contend that investigators ignored possible suspects and focused exclusively on Montecalvo, then built a circumstantial case iminot him Thpv nninted to admitted dis crepancies in police reports and disparities in the accounts ot neignoors wnu neaiu luc shooting. C'T'm not a saint. I know that." Montecalvo I oniH fi-nm thn T.ns Anpeles Cnuntv Jail ,Unn ic hnincr hplH without bail. "I've only known one saint in my life and that's Carol. ... 1 would never nun ner. Although it is only one of a litany ot murder trials that fill the daily court calendars, the case already has some odd twists: Montecalvo tiled a lawsuit last year ,,r.;,Trr Hnpliit nnlipp nffirprs nf not re- uuluu'"' ju..., v- -- sponding quickly enough to save his wifes life. The suit, Montecalvo contenus, spur police to pursue him as a murder suspect and arrest him earlier this year. The fingerprint ot a department siure salesman and recovering drug addict was found in a shaving lotion box in the Montecalvo home, and the salesman quit his job shortly after the murder and vamsneu. muni.ei.cuvu nlimc tv,p nnlirp icnnrpd the man as a Dossible suspect. Police said they now have ruled him out as tne Kiuer but would like to talk to him. o Police waited for nearly two years to perform a key laboratory examination that prosecutors say indicates Montecalvo fired a gun the night of the killing. Montecal- . vo had passed an initial test for the presence of gunshot powder on his h.nnds. Prose cutors said a test with a more sophisticated inuip tnrnpH nn Ipari narticles. Montecalvo disputes the accuracy of the new test. The original prosecutor on tne case sougni. to dismiss the murder charge against Monte-iim Rut inn nffipinls in the district attorney's office overruled Deputy Dist. Atty. Penny Schneider ana sne rennquisneu iier ruie. bcnneider aecnnea to iaiK uuuui uie leaauu for her dismissal recommendation. But Larry Trapp, an assistant director in the district attorney s Bureau ot tsrancn ana Area iterations, said: "We prosecute thousands and thousands of cases, and this is a relatively rare occasion. There was just a amerence ui opinion. "In this particular case, when we looked at all the evidence, we believed that this case should go to trial and we believe there is enough evidence to convince the jury this man is guilty," he added. To some of his neighbors and fellow church members, Montecalvo has been targeted by law enforcement officials who seized on his troubled past which includes two bank robbery convictions and made him the convenient suspect in a case they could not solve. "I personally feel in my own heart had he not been an ex-felon, this thing would have been done away with," said Wil Strong, the pastor of Overcomers Church in Northridge, a nondenominational Christian church that included the Montecalvos as members. Carol Menon and Dan Montecalvo began their relationship in 1978 as prison pen pals, he told The Times! She was active in a Madison, Wis., ministry and he was in a prison cell in nearby Oxford serving time for bank robbery. After six months of exchanging letters, Carol made her first visit to the prison. And on July 14, 1980. they were married in a prison chapel. Three years later they moved to Southern California where Carol worked as an office manager and in advertising sales for local telephone companies. "She loved you, and you knew that she loved you," said Maree Flores, one of her , closest" friends. "There was a goodness in her that radiated. She loved the Lord and she loved people." Flares, who believes in Montecalvo's innoT cence. said the couple had been looking forward to their Hawaiian vacation in 1988, a trip that Carol had won at her work. That fateful evening, according to Montecalvo, after the couple had taken a walk, they had decided to replace an auto registration sticker that was scheduled- to. expire at midnight. Montecalvo said he waited in the driveway while Carol stepped into the house to gel a towel to clean the license plate. Whoever shot Carol Montecalvo fired the first bullet into the left side of her neck as she stood in the hallway according to police 'I'm not a saint, I know that. I've only known one saint in my life and that's Carol. . . . I would never hurt her.' DAN MONTECALVO i W M1NDY SCHAUER For the Times Dan Montecalvo requested that he be photographed in silhouette only at the Central Jail downtown. Below, his wife, Carol, whom he is accused of murdering for insurance money. i i l If x i IT . v f ''A .1 I ... m m 1 reports. Her body clad in a blue sweat suit, striped shirt and thongs slumped to the floor. Her assailant then apparently stepped toward her, held the gun inches from the back of her neck and fired a second bullet. To investigators, it was the executioner's touch. Still, the shots did not prove instantly fatal, and Dan Montecalvo insists that his wife could have survived if she had received prompt medical attention. In his lawsuit, he claims that after Burbank police responded to his 911 call, the officers remained outside the house while emergency operators called him back twice to verify the shooting. Despite his assurances that the intruders had fled, the police entered only when Montecalvo came out of the house, and paramedics were not called in yntil several minutes later, according to the 911 tape and police reports. To. Montecalvo, the delay cost his wife any chance of survival. To police, their delayed entry was a standard precaution to avoid walking in on a gunman. Montecalvo's attorney now contends that it was his client's outspoken .criticism' of the police and his subsequent lawsuit that intensified the investigation of him and turned him into the primary murder suspect. "There were other possible suspects that the police ignored to focus on Dan," Ronald Applegate said. "And they overlooked or botched evidence that would help his case." For example,' he said, Montecalvo told police that one gunman may have had a mustache and a "Latin" accent, and he suggested the couple's ex-gardeners as possible suspects. The gardeners, however, were not questioned until nearly two years later, Applegate said. Police investigators said the gardeners now live in Mexico and were difficult to find. Prosecutor Robert Cohen said Montecalvo came under growing scrutiny when it was learned that he had substantial gambling debts and his wife had hefty insurance policies. Montecalvo confirmed that he gambled for a living but only because he found it difficult to find work because of his prison record and health problems. He managed a residential hotel in downtown Los Angeles until 1986, then went on disability with a bleeding ulcer. Montecalvo said his wife also was aware of his gambling debts, including more than 840,000 he Owed to Las Vegas casinos and a friend who had bankrolled his gambling. He said she also knew he had been repaying them. One former casino official told investigators that Montecalvo was on a repayment schedule but had been under pressure to speed up the payments. Carol Montecalvo had a total of $600,000 in life insurance, most of it from present and past jobs. After her death, her husband said he collected about $340,000 before life insurance companies learned that he was the prime suspect and withheld payments. The chief investigator, Burbank Detective Brian Arnspiger, said it is the image of the murder victim that has kept him digging for evidence against Montecalvo. "Carol has kept me awake ever since I got this case." he said. "Every night I wake up and make notes to myself . . . and I'm convinced he did it." Spies Never Came In From the Cold Espionage: FBI claims Soviets are still snooping in Silicon Valley. Business leaders suggest that counterintelligence experts may be exaggerating threat. By DAN MORAIN TIMES STAFF WRITER SAN FRANCISCO He was, it seemed, an especially gregarious and polished entrepreneur out to make deals. On a visit a few months ago, the deputy chief of a Soviet high-tech concern busied himself by meeting Silicon Valley executives, gathering company reports and soaking up as many details as he could. He also attracted the attention of FBI foreign counterintelligence , agents. Under his businessman facade, agents concluded, he was a Soviet intelligence officer. For U.S. firms looking to tap into the Soviet market, these are heady days. Come November, the Berlin Wall will have been down for a year. U.S. -Soviet cooperation has reached new heights as the two countries joined to condemn Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. But for all the summits, arms control talks and trade agreements, FBI agents say, word evidently has not reached Soviet spies that the Cold War is over. L. Douglas Gow, assistant FBI director, said as recently as June that Soviet espionage was increasing nationwide. FBI agents say it is particularly evident in Silicon Valley. "There's no clear evidence that they have diminished their efforts. And to the contrary, there's evidence that they have increased it," said Edward J. Appel, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI in San Francisco. Appel is responsible for foreign counterintelligence efforts in Northern California. It is turf well . known as a center for research and development of high-tech products and electronic warfare equipment. Roughly 500 firms here are cleared to perform secret or top-secret work, and 30,000 people hold high security clearances. In the 1980s, the Bay Area served as a backdrop for major prosecutions of spies, and entrepreneurs who sold or attempted to sell restricted computer equipment to the Soviets and Eastern European countries. The dramatic spy prosecutions of the last decade may have given way to above-board business deals in the 1990s, but according to Appel and other FBI agents whose job it is to catch spies in Northern California, the Soviet Union and some Eastern European countries continue their quest for U.S. trade secrets, economic and political intelligence, and restricted high-tech equipment. Please see SPIES, A18 HIV-infected Advised to Return to the Basics Health: New thinking in slowing the onset of AIDS includes such fundamentals as exercise, stress management, vitamin supplements and the drug AZT. By IRENE WIELAWSKI TIMES STAFF WRITER Vittorio, 25, has never been in better shape. He exercises regularly, eats well, takes vitamin supplements and meditates to relieve stress. He looks trim and rested, but looks are not what this is about. Infected with the AIDS virus for more than a year, Vittorio is fighting for his life. The vitamins and strengthening lifestyle are aimed at bolstering his immune system against the assault of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Vittorio also takes low doses of the antiviral drug AZT to put off the deadly infections that mark a person's transition from asymptomatic HIV infection to AIDS. His efforts reflect the latest thinking on treatment of HIV infection. The lifestyle changes incorporate health preservative lesr sons of other illnesses, such as heart disease whose sufferers are urged to quit smoking and exercise moderately to strengthen heart muscle. The other part of Vittorio's regimen, AZT, was approved for asymptomatic HIV infection by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last March in response to studies showing the drug effective in delaying the onset of AIDS. In the months since, health officials and clinic administrators in Southern California have seen new interest in testing for HIV infection. Among those asking for tests are people who previously shunned knowledge of their HIV status in-the belief they could do nothing about a positive test result but wait to get sick. Of those who test positive, some, like Vittorio, are embracing early treatment and reporting continued good health. That's the good news. The bad news is that many people who could benefit from early drug treatment will not get it because they, along with the public health system, lack money. In particular, high-risk minorities and their sexual partners who are frequently uninsured are under-represented in treatment, even as Please see HIV, A22 m t i I Associated Press Los Angeles Times March Fong Eu Joan Milke Flores ' Evelina Alarcon CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS SECRETARY OF STATE Voter Disinterest Hobbles Flores in Race Against Eu By DEAN MURPHY, times staff writer Joan Milke Flores paced outside the county administration building in San Diego one morning last week, waiting for the news media to arrive for a press conference. "Thank you," she sighed with relief when a lone reporter approached the portable lectern. "You've saved me from a candidate's nightmare." Short on money but long on ambition, Flores has learned the value of news coverage, the free exposure of campaigns, in her bid to unseat four-term incumbent Secretary of State March Fong Eu. The Republican challenger from San Pedro, however, has also learned a more sobering lesson during her first run for statewide office: It is tough creating interest in a race that few people know or seem to care much about. "The fact of the matter is, for 16 years MarchFong Eu has been missing in action," Flores complained recently to a group of conservative Republican contributors. "My campaign started with a challenge for her to come out of hiding and account for the failures of her office. She hasn't accepted my offer." Eu, traditionally one of California's top vote-getters, has frustrated her opponent by sticking to a strategy that has served Please see FLORES, A23

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