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Swiss Transient Pleads Innocent to Killing Cabbie

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A transient from Switzerland, who told police that he was recently treated in his homeland for severe depression, pleaded innocent Wednesday to a first-degree murder charge in the shotgun slaying of a taxicab driver in Bel-Air.

Daniel Guil, 22, of Lucerne entered the plea during his arraignment in West Los Angeles Municipal Court. However, police have said that Guil admitted killing cabbie Dane Wittenberg, 35, while in an apparently disoriented state of mind.

Guil’s court-appointed public defender, Carol Hallowitz, would not answer questions about what kind of strategy might be used to defend Guil, who came to the United States in late April.

Wittenberg’s body was found Sunday morning inside his cab, which was parked on a dead-end street off Hidden Valley Road in the Santa Monica Mountains. He had been shot in the face.

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Two hours later, Guil was taken into custody in Beverly Hills. His clothes were splattered with blood, police said.

According to a police report filed in court at the arraignment, Guil told detectives that he shot the cabbie--who worked for Yellow Cab of Culver City--for no apparent reason.

“I was lost and I didn’t have any money,” Guil was quoted as saying. “So . . . I asked him (Wittenberg) to take me to the Beverly Hills Hotel. When we were about three minutes from the hotel, I took the gun and just shot the driver . . . I don’t know why . . . maybe I wanted to take his money.”

Investigators said they found $86 in the dead cabbie’s pockets.

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Guil told detectives that he bought a shotgun two days before at a Van Nuys gun shop.

“I got it to be safe,” he was quoted as saying. “I don’t know what I was going to do with it. Maybe I got it to kill people.”

Guil also told police that he had been hospitalized several months ago in Switzerland for 10 days because of severe depression.

“The medication was very strong and I couldn’t take it anymore,” Guil told detectives. “With my parents’ help, I got the doctor to release me from the hospital. . . . I thought coming to the United States would do me some good.”

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At Wednesday’s arraignment, Judge Rosemary Shumsky ordered Guil held without bail.


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