2 Face Kidnaping, Homicide Charges in Topanga Canyon Murder Case

Times Staff Writer

Two men have been ordered to stand trial in Santa Monica Superior Court on homicide, kidnaping and robbery charges in a murder case that revolves around a fatal limousine ride from an opulent hotel suite in West Hollywood to a shallow stream bed in Topanga Canyon.

Superior Court Judge David N. Fitts ordered Mark Steffan Smith, 29, of West Hollywood, and Kevin Leigh, 21, of Canoga Park, to face charges stemming from the killing in February of 28-year-old Rick Diamonon. Smith is also charged with possession of cocaine with intent to sell, and Leigh faces a separate cocaine-possession charge.

Smith and Leigh, who are being held without bail, pleaded not guilty last week. Fitts then set a hearing on pretrial motions for Aug. 26.

The arraignment came two weeks after lengthy court hearings presided over by Malibu Municipal Judge John J. Merrick, who described the proceedings as "an incredible parade of witnesses that would rival a Damon Runyon omnibus, I think, and flood of incredible testimony."

Body Found in Stream

On Feb. 4, a hiker found Diamonon's body lying face down in a two-foot-deep stream just 50 feet below Topanga Canyon Boulevard. Diamonon had been struck on the head and shot in the arm and thigh with a .38-caliber revolver. An autopsy later showed that the gunshot and head wounds were not fatal, but that Diamonon had drowned in the stream.

According to testimony given during the pre-arraignment hearings, Diamonon, Smith and Leigh were among six passengers who rode in a Cadillac limousine to Topanga Canyon one night in early February.

Several witnesses questioned at the hearing by Deputy Dist. Atty. Myra Radel testified that, during one stop in the Topanga area, the three left the limousine, but only Smith and Leigh returned.

Much of Radel's case was based on testimony provided by Andrew Wachter, 29, a curly haired, former bank loan officer who also was in the limousine. Wachter said he ended up there, drugged and inebriated, after meeting Diamonon several days earlier at a Santa Monica Boulevard bar.

Testimony Pivotal

Wachter's testimony has become pivotal to the case not only because of the prosecution's reliance on it, but also because Smith's defense attorney, Alan May, has suggested that Wachter might have had a motive to commit the murder.

Wachter testified that, after accompanying Diamonon to a well-appointed suite in the Le Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood, he found himself caught among a group of men involved in cocaine sales and male prostitution. Diamonon had been staying at the hotel since late 1984.

Wachter said he had memory lapses over the next few days because of alcohol and drug use, but recalled hearing Smith and Leigh argue with Diamonon while the car drove through Topanga Canyon. He said he then saw them drag Diamonon out of the car after it had stopped on Topanga Canyon Road.

Diamonon "pleaded for his life," Radel said near the end of the hearings. "The limousine was ordered to leave. Only three people were left at that murder scene, the defendants and the victim. Some 10 to 20 minutes later, the limousine returns. Two people get back in, each of the defendants."

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