The Los Angeles County district attorney's office on Wednesday spurned the confession of a woman who claimed that she and several friends were responsible for the 1988 slaying of Carol Montecalvo, whose husband was convicted last year of the murder.
The prosecutor in the case said that Suzan Brown, 45, was lying when she suddenly stepped forward last month and confessed her role in the fatal shooting of Montecalvo in her Burbank home.
"After an extensive investigation of Ms. Brown's statements, it is clear that her statements are false," Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Cohen said in a written report wrapping up the monthlong investigation.
"Based upon the evidence and information we have gathered in an attempt to check out Ms. Brown's story, we find nothing in her statement . . . that would lead us to believe that it is anything other than another in a series of fabrications," he added.
Brown, a former neighbor of the Montecalvos, told The Times on Wednesday that she sticks by her story that she and her friends were under the influence of drugs and seeking money to buy more when they decided to burglarize the Montecalvo house.
In a Dec. 17 interview, Brown told district attorney's investigators that two men had shot the Montecalvos when the couple returned home from an evening walk.
But Cohen said that the two men identified by Brown denied any involvement in the crime. The men's fingerprints did not match unidentified prints found in the Montecalvo house, the prosecutor said.
A fourth person named by Brown was not present the night of the murder, Cohen said. Further, a .25-caliber gun that Cohen said was used to shoot Daniel Montecalvo was located in San Diego, but a ballistics test showed the weapon was not used in the shooting. Police have not found the .38-caliber revolver used to shoot Carol Montecalvo twice in the neck, said Cohen, who added that he was confident the real killer was the victim's husband.
Daniel Montecalvo, 49, was convicted last November of murdering his 43-year-old wife and shooting himself in the back to cash in on her $600,000 insurance policies. But Montecalvo, who was sentenced to 27 years to life in prison, has maintained his innocence, and his private investigators located Brown and brought her story to the attention of authorities.
After hearing of the district attorney's findings, Brown said she stands by her claim that Montecalvo did not kill his wife, although she admitted she was not completely truthful when she originally told investigators her story.
During her final interview with investigators Monday, Brown said that she had been in the house that night and asked for a guarantee of immunity before she would tell them any more. But after conferring with Cohen and his boss, Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard W. Hecht, the investigators abruptly ended their interview with no immunity offer.
"At some point in time, you just say that's it," Cohen said. "How much taxpayer money are you going to expend when we know that this woman has lied, lied, lied, lied and lied?"
Brown, however, insisted that she was in the house on the night of the slaying. "I witnessed Carol being shot, and I shot Dan," she told The Times, adding that she did not admit her role in the shooting earlier because she was uncertain whether she could still be prosecuted.
"If coming forward and telling the truth and trying to free an innocent man is wrong, then so be it," she said.
In researching Brown's background, Cohen said, investigators learned that she had been in several mental hospitals and had received a psychiatric discharge from the military.
Brown said she served in the Navy for seven years and received an honorable discharge in 1967 after 13 months in Vietnam as a nurse. She said she suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome from her Vietnam experience and has been in psychiatric units to deal with stress from the war and cancer and drug problems. She said her psychiatric problems do not make her a liar.