A convicted narcotics dealer and his former bodyguard went on trial Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court for the 1981 murders of four people in a Laurel Canyon home who were allegedly killed in retaliation for an earlier drug-related robbery.
Two men, Adel "Eddie Nash" Nasrallah, 59, and Gregory Diles, 40 are charged with the murders, which were first blamed on the late adult film star John Holmes, who was tried and acquitted for homicide in the case in 1982.
Deputy District Attorney Dale Davidson told two separate Superior Court juries Monday that the evidence will show that Nasrallah and Diles are responsible for the slayings. In response, defense attorney Ed Rucker, who represents Nasrallah, said: "We know someone other than the defendants committed the murders. We're gonna prove it."
Rucker said he would identify those others at the trial.
Authorities believe Nash ordered Diles and others to kill the four victims in a Laurel Canyon residence on July 1, 1981 in revenge for a robbery that two of them had allegedly committed at Nasrallah's Studio City home two days before.
Bludgeoned to death in the attack were William Deverell, 42, Joy Miller, 46, Barbara Richardson, 22, and Ronald Lanius. Beaten and left for dead was Lanuis' wife, Susan, 25, who survived but was unable to identify the assailants because of brain damage. Deverell and Lanuis had allegedly participated in the robbery at Nash's home.
Nasrallah, once described by Holmes as "the most evil man I've ever know," and Diles, have pleaded innocent to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
If convicted, they could be sentenced to death. Diles and the Lebanese-born Nasrallah remain in custody without bail.
Nasrallah and Diles will be tried together, but in an unusual arrangement, each defendent will have his own jury. That is because prosecutors plan to introduce statements each man allegedly made implicating himself and his co-defendant in the murders.
Under California law, Nasrallah's alleged statements impicating himself and Diles can only be used against Nasrallah. Likewise, Diles' alleged statements implicating himself and Nasrallah can only be used against Diles.
Therefore, when Nash's alleged statements are introduced at the trial, only his jury will hear them. Diles' jury will leave the court at that time. Nash's jury will leave the court when Diles' alleged statements are introduced.
Nasrallah and Diles were long suspected of being involved in the slayings, but were not formally charged until September 1988, more than seven years after the killings.
Charges were brought against the pair after prosecutors said they had uncovered new evidence in the case, including the testimony of Scott Thorson, a former lover of the late entertainer Liberace.
Thorson testified at the preliminary hearing in the case that Nash never directly admitted that he had ordered the killings, but after the slayings, lamented that he had decided to send Diles and Holmes to the Laurel Canyon residence to retrieve the drugs and cash.
Thorson sued Liberace in 1982 in a palimony suit which was settled out of court in 1984. Liberace died of AIDS in January 1987.
Holmes, a superstar in the pornographic film industry, was tried and acquitted of the murders. He died of AIDS in March 1988 at age 43.