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Former Officer Given Life Term in Slaying

Times Staff Writer

Former Los Angeles Police Officer Robert Von Villas was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the 1983 contract slaying of a Northridge businessman.

Superior Court Judge Darlene E. Schempp sentenced Von Villas, 44, of Simi Valley, despite claims by him and by his attorneys that at least four of the jurors who convicted him of murder in November were influenced by discussions outside the jury room.

For the record:
12:00 AM, Mar. 10, 1989 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday March 10, 1989 Valley Edition Metro Part 2 Page 9 Column 1 Zones Desk 4 inches; 129 words Type of Material: Correction
The last few paragraphs of an article about the sentencing of former Los Angeles Police Officer Robert Von Villas were omitted from some copies Thursday. Von Villas was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for the contract killing of a Northridge businessman.
The missing part of the story quoted Von Villas as saying he believed jurors were prejudiced against him because of information they had received outside the courtroom, including his prior conviction for robbing a jewelry store and attempting to murder an exotic dancer to collect on a life insurance policy.
It said Von Villas’ attorneys attempted to question two former jurors who invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to testify. In denying a motion for a new trial, Judge Darlene E. Schempp ruled that jurors who convicted Von Villas were not influenced by that knowledge or any other information they received outside the courtroom.

In a separate Van Nuys Superior Court trial, another former Los Angeles police officer, Richard Herman Ford, 48, was also convicted of murder in the slaying of businessman Thomas Weed, 52.

The two former Devonshire Division officers accepted $20,000 from Weed’s ex-wife, Janie E. Ogilvie, in exchange for killing him, authorities said. Ogilvie was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for her testimony and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

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Sentenced in February

Ford, of Northridge, was sentenced Feb. 23 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

During a rambling speech Wednesday, Von Villas denied participating in the killing. He said he believes that the jury was harder on him because he was a police officer.

“I have never met Mrs. Ogilvie,” he said. “I have not met Mr. Weed.”

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Von Villas recalled watching jurors when Schempp asked if they had discussed or heard anything about the proceedings outside the courtroom. No juror raised a hand, Von Villas said. But he said he saw “no less than four jury members look down or look away. I knew they knew something.”

Von Villas said he believes that jurors knew of his and Ford’s convictions last year in the 1982 robbery of a Northridge jewelry store. They were each sentenced to 35 years in prison for that crime and for attempting to murder Granada Hills exotic dancer Joan Loguercio in 1983 to collect a $100,000 life insurance policy.

Von Villas’ attorneys, Jack R. Stone and Donald Feinberg, moved for a new trial based on jury misconduct and tried to question two jurors in court. But the former jurors--Betty Cornack and Kathryn Brown, represented by court-appointed attorneys--invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to testify.

Schempp denied the motion for a new trial, ruling that while jurors might have learned of the robbery convictions, they were not influenced by that knowledge.

In sentencing Von Villas, the judge said: “You were a very hard-working man. You have a good background. . . . But your conduct was so outrageous to take another’s life for profit that you deserve the maximum sentence.”


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