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Warrant Issued for Mariachi Husband : Whirlwind Affair Ends in Death for a Free Spirit : Love Vanquishes a Free Spirit

Times Staff Writer

Friends describe the late Lorraine Kiefer, 70, as a flamboyant, red-haired bon vivant who split her time between a rambling house in Van Nuys and a duplex in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Her favorite color was purple. She would adorn herself with purple scarfs, blouses, belts, skirts and shoes. A real estate broker, she drove clients around the San Fernando Valley in a big purple Buick.

On a 1975 vacation in Mexico, Kiefer, then a well-to-do married woman of 60, met Gilberto Flores, a 22-year-old mariachi singer with a deep, rich voice. Kiefer invited Flores to her home in Van Nuys. He lived there off and on until Kiefer’s husband died at the age of 71, in 1980. Six months later, Kiefer and Flores were married in a wedding chapel in Las Vegas.

Last year, during the late-evening hours of Oct. 2, Kiefer was at home watching television. Someone walked into her house on Margate Street through a sliding-glass door and beat her to death with a pipe.

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Mexican authorities arrested a suspect six months later. He confessed to the murder and told authorities that Flores had paid him $5,000 to kill Kiefer, Los Angeles police Detective Ed Entwisle said.

Last month, police issued a warrant for Flores’ arrest.

Complex Relationship

‘Maybe he was the son she never had. But she gave him everything he ever wanted.’

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Evelyn Patrick, a lifelong friend of Kiefer’s, remembers the Sunday afternoon when Kiefer met Flores. Kiefer was staying at Patrick’s house in the resort town of Puerto Vallarta. Friends of a neighbor came by to drink margaritas and sing mariachi songs.

“Gilberto was strumming the guitar and singing in Spanish,” Patrick said recently in a telephone interview from Puerto Vallarta. “He didn’t speak any English, and Lorraine didn’t speak Spanish, but it didn’t make any difference. She was swept off her feet that day.”

Although Kiefer was married at the time and Flores had a common-law wife with four children, the two began to carry on a romance, Patrick said.

They often went to La Palata, a popular beachfront restaurant in Puerto Vallarta, for ceviche and beer. In the evenings, they went to Los Lobos, a nightclub where the couple would dance until the early morning.

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Flores eventually moved to the United States, and into Kiefer’s $230,000 house in Van Nuys. There the two lived together intermittently for six years with Kiefer’s husband, according to an affidavit for a search warrant filed by the police in Municipal Court.

“Maybe he was the son she never had,” Patrick said. “But she gave him everything he ever wanted.”

‘Dripping in Gold’

Flores, Patrick said, had an obsession with jewelry, and Kiefer supplied him with as much as he desired.

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“He was dripping in gold,” Patrick said. “Anything he ever wanted, she bought for him. He had gold chains, medallions, rings--you name it.”

According to Patrick, Kiefer introduced Flores to things he had seen only in movies and on television.

“When she met him, he had one pair of pants, a working shirt and boots,” Patrick said. “That was it. But at the end of eight years, Gilberto had a closet full of clothes, silk shirts, 10 pairs of boots. He had stereos, tape recorders, and loved it all.”

On weekends, Flores and Kiefer went to the beach or the race track, driving in the gray Buick she had bought for him. The couple frequented Disneyland, Magic Mountain and Knotts Berry Farm--places Flores loved, Patrick said.

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“Here was a man who would keep this old lady company and show her a good time,” Patrick said. “She was happy for that. Her friends were dying, and Lorraine was growing worried that she would be left alone. She spoiled him rotten to pay him back for staying with her.”

Romance With Housekeeper

But, while Kiefer wined and dined Flores, friends said, he openedly carried on a romance with Luciana Gutierrez, a 22-year-old housekeeper at the Kiefer home who often accompanied the two on outings. In 1983, Gutierrez became pregnant, acquaintances said.

Kiefer’s apparent tolerance of her husband’s relationship with Gutierrez seemed to underscore the fact that Kiefer was an unusual woman.

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That she had married a man 38 years her junior did not shock many of her friends. “It didn’t surprise me one bit,” said Clare Short, a Tarzana real estate man for whom Kiefer had worked for 20 years. “She wasn’t concerned with what other people thought of her.”

Her marriage to Edmund Kiefer, a Hollywood bartender and former trombone player who once worked with Woody Herman, had been one of convenience, friends said. According to Short, Lorraine and Edmund Kiefer maintained a “brother-sister relationship” known to all the couple’s close friends.

For her part, though, Kiefer carried on an active social life, Short said. “Eddie understood it completely and was still happy to be married to Lorraine,” he said.

‘Led the Good Life’

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Even when she was in her late 60s, Kiefer was vigorous and active. She traveled extensively, and “led the good life,” Patrick said.

Kiefer often went water-skiing on weekends, and three or four times a year she would go on whirlwind vacations with woman friends. Besides annual trips to Puerto Vallarta, she traveled to New Zealand, Australia, Spain, France and Holland, Short said.

“She always looked about 10 years younger than she was,” he said. “She was lively, opinionated, strong-willed. She didn’t have an enemy in the world. She was like a big friendly kitten.”

Once married to Flores, she treated her husband’s four children and the woman authorities described as his common-law wife as though they were her own family. While Kiefer and Flores were in Van Nuys, she had Flores’ family stay in her Mexican duplex and regularly sent them an allowance, according to Patrick. Whenever Kiefer went to Puerto Vallarta, she took them bags of clothing and trinkets, Patrick said.

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But, two years after the marriage, her pace began to slow. In 1983, Kiefer developed cancer of the uterus and underwent a hysterectomy, friends said. As she was recovering from radiation treatment, spurs on her feet made walking painful. Her once-active life became increasingly restricted.

Her sedentary condition seemed to propel Flores out of the house more and more, Patrick said.

Flores became a frequent patron at the Copa de Oro bar on Parthenia Avenue in Northridge, where he often drank heavily and complained about Kiefer, police said.

Police officers who interviewed friends of Flores said he told them that Kiefer supplied him with a $100 weekly allowance. And, when Kiefer could not satisfy

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his sexual needs, he boasted that she gave him money for prostitutes, the affidavit said.

One neighbor recalled that Flores refused to work regularly and “wanted to lie around the house and be supported,” according to the affidavit.

Kiefer, who had retired as a real estate broker, took an unpaid job at the American Cancer Society thrift shop on Van Nuys Boulevard.

“I was the only one here who knew about her marriage,” the store manager recalled. “She was a jovial, happy-go-lucky person. She lived it up and enjoyed herself. I think she must have been lonely when she married. When you’re lonely, you do lots of strange things.”

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Aftermath of Killing

Two were asked to take polygraphs.

When questioned by investigators the morning after the slaying, Flores said that he had discovered his wife’s body about midnight. He said that he thought at first that she had been asleep and had fallen off the living room sofa. When he saw the blood under her body, he said, he ran to a neighbor’s house.

Flores and the housekeeper, Gutierrez, told police that, at the time of the killing, they had been out collecting old newspapers to sell.

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A neighbor, Lillian Hoffman, told investigators that Flores and Gutierrez waited for the police on the front steps. “They both were in tears,” the neighbor said. “Neither of them would go in the house all day.”

Because of what investigators termed inconsistencies in their stories, Flores and Gutierrez were asked to submit to polygraph examinations. Both refused, according to police records.

Within a month, Flores, armed with his wife’s death certificate, withdrew $20,000 from a joint bank account and opened a $50,000, one-year, high-interest account at the Sherman Oaks branch of Sears Savings and Loan, according to the affidavit. He withdrew $5,000 from another account and deposited it in a bank in Puerto Vallarta, Detective Gerald Sola said.

Subsequent Marriage

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A week later, Flores and Gutierrez moved to Mexico and were married, according to the affidavit.

By that time investigators had been supplied with a lead in the case.

Two weeks after the slaying, a neighbor called police and supplied Entwisle with a letter that had been slipped under the front door of the Kiefer house. It was a cryptic, rambling note, written in Spanish, saying that, if Flores continued to avoid the author of the note, the writer would “burn” Flores. Two telephone numbers were written above the signature, which read Chaparrito, or Shorty.

Investigators said they determined that Shorty was a slightly built 22-year-old man by the name of Andreas Hernandez Santiago. He had recently left for Mexico.

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Hernandez was traced to Oaxaca, where he was staying with a friend. Investigators said Flores sent Hernandez a telegram agreeing to pay him $5,000.

On April 8, police in Oaxaca arrested Hernandez. Mexican authorities said he confessed to the killing and said he was hired by Flores. With the $5,000 payment, Hernandez told authorities, he had bought a car. Investigators regard the note left at the house as part of an effort to wring more money from Flores.

Hernandez is being held without bail and is awaiting a preliminary hearing in Mexico.

Police are searching for Flores, who is believed to be hiding with Gutierrez in Mexico.

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Friends’ Memories

‘I still remember the day they met.’

“Just at the time when she was ready to enjoy the fruits of her life she was killed in such a brutal way,” said Puerto Vallarta resident Marlena Paternostro, reminiscing about her friend, Lorraine Kiefer. “She had a heart of pure gold.”

Evelyn Patrick said she thinks that Kiefer gave more and more to Flores because she was old and afraid of dying alone.

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“I still remember the first day they met, seeing her sitting and smiling, listening to Gilberto sing,” Patrick said. “She fell in love with a young man who had a beautiful singing voice.”


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