The husband of a state correctional officer who was shot to death in Anaheim 16 years ago in what initially appeared to be an act of road rage was sentenced Friday to life in prison, prosecutors said in a statement.
Nuzzio Begaren, 53, was arrested in 2012 after the case was re-investigated. He was found guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder by an Orange County jury in September.
Begaren maintains his innocence and is appealing the decision, said defense attorney Arpa Stepanian.
Elizabeth Begaren was killed Jan. 17, 1998. That night, Nuzzio Begaren was driving with his wife and their young daughter on the 91 Freeway when the driver of another vehicle forced him to pull over.
Prosecutors said Begaren moved to the backseat with his daughter as his wife was shot and robbed of her purse, which held $5,000.
After first considering her death an act of road rage, police soon became suspicious of Nuzzio Begaren, who they learned had taken out a $1-million life insurance policy on his wife three days after they were married in 1997. But the case went cold, and Begaren remained free until it was re-investigated two years ago.
Prosecutors said Begaren hired members of an L.A. street gang to kill his wife. On the day she was shot, the family went shopping and he gave her $5,000 to hold, knowing it would be taken as payment for the murder, they said.
A few years after the killing, Begaren collected the $1-million life insurance on his wife, prosecutors said.
Guillermo Espinoza, the man authorities say shot Elizabeth Begaren, has never been arrested. Authorities believe he went into hiding after the case was reopened in 2012.
“No one is happy or is in good spirits when they’re sentenced to 25-to-life, but Mr. Begaren is confident that the appeals process will show that he is not guilty of this crime,” Stepanian said, adding that a notice of appeal was filed immediately after sentencing.