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Malibu Man Held in 8-Year-Old Murder

Times Staff Writer

Eight years after the crime, a Malibu businessman has been charged with arranging the contract murder of a business associate who allegedly bilked him out of more than $100,000.

Ken Taves, 36, who operates a health products business, was being held Wednesday in Los Angeles County Jail without bail in the slaying of Jeffrey Rockman, 33, who also went by the name Jeffrey Starr.

Rockman, whose bullet-riddled body was discovered in his Ocean Front Walk townhouse in Marina del Rey in April, 1980, “ripped off (Taves) in an elaborate bunco scheme (involving gold investments),” Los Angeles Police Lt. Ross Moen said.

The break in the case occurred when “one particular witness came forward seven years or so after the crime and told the story of what happened and we were able to corroborate it,” said Deputy Dist. Atty. Katherine Mader, who will prosecute Taves.

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The alleged triggerman, whom sources close to the investigation described as a neighborhood handyman, has never been arrested, Mader said. The prosecutor declined to comment on whether he is the witness who came forward.

If convicted, Taves, who was arrested Sept. 29 and faces a preliminary hearing today in West Los Angeles Municipal Court, could face the death penalty because of a special allegation that the murder was committed for financial gain.

Taves’ lawyer, James Twitty, said his client maintains that he is being framed.

“It is our position,” Twitty said, “that the witnesses for the people are not being truthful and are apparently trying to frame Ken Taves for what they may have done.

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“It’s very unusual for somebody all of a sudden without some special motive of their own to claim that anybody did anything eight years ago--much less this wild and crazy.”

Twitty said he could not comment on the relationship between Taves and Rockman.

According to Moen, Rockman was a divorced Detroit native who was believed to be involved in “numerous types of bunco schemes involving gold investments, auto leasing, property and stock investments.” Taves’ “apparent motive,” Moen said, was the loss of more than $100,000 he invested with Rockman.

Moen said Taves has described himself as a “self-employed businessman.”

Taves sold health aid products and toner for photocopying machines from his beachfront Malibu home, Mader said.

The prosecutor said Taves recently pleaded guilty in an Arizona federal court to a misdemeanor charge in an oil fraud scheme and is awaiting sentencing.


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