Antigua business owner arrested in 1992 La Mirada murder-for-hire plot

Caribbean business owner arrested in wife's 1992 killing in La Mirada park

Morrad Ghonim had a 6-month-old baby in the backseat when his teenage wife was shot to death in the passenger seat of their car in a La Mirada park in 1992.

The 18-year-old father allegedly reported the attack as a botched robbery -- the shooter wanted their car, he said -- but fled after killing Vicki Ghonim. She was 17.

But Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide detectives eventually concluded it was a murder-for-hire plot and Ghonim was the man behind it. The price was $500, according to prosecutors.

“Apparently he didn’t want to be married,” homicide Lt. John Corina said Thursday.

Ghonim allegedly hired Leon Martinez, whom he met through an acquaintance. Authorities arrested both men in 2010 but prosecutors concluded they had enough evidence to charge only Martinez, so Ghonim was let go, Corina said.

Ghonim fled to the twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, and eventually Martinez, 42, went to trial.

Martinez was convicted of murder in March, and his wife, Evangelina Martinez, 36, was charged with and convicted of dissuading a witness from testifying. Her husband had revealed details of the killing to an ex-girlfriend they feared would testify, prosecutors said.

Meanwhile, Ghonim had apparently thrived in the eastern Caribbean.

Officials say he started a company, Ayoushe Beauty Supplies, which is how he met his new wife, a Dominican beauty queen. The company was successful enough that in 2012, he sponsored a local beauty pageant, according to the government’s official website.

At the same time, detectives back in Southern California continued to build their case.

Some new witnesses pushed the case over the top, Corina said, and an arrest warrant was issued for Ghonim. With the help of the U.S. Marshals, the Royal Police Force of Antigua took Ghonim into custody last week without incident.

Ghonim was flown to Miami on Saturday, where he remains in custody without bail, according to Miami-Dade County jail records. He will probably be back in Los Angeles County within the next month to face charges, Corina said.

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