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Ex-Car Dealer, Others Indicted in Slaying : Crime: Prosecutors say William Nix Jr. hired others to kill salesman who had sued his dealership.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The former executive of a San Diego car dealership and six other men were indicted Tuesday on federal murder-for-hire charges in the 1988 execution-style slaying of a salesman who had sued the dealership.

William Wayne (Will) Nix Jr., formerly general manager of what used to be called Center City Ford, recruited and paid the others to kill Sal Ruscitti, prosecutors alleged. Ruscitti was one of the leaders of a 1986 lawsuit claiming that sales staff at the dealership had been systematically bilked out of commissions.

Before Tuesday, Nix alone had been named on murder charges filed in May. But prosecutors divulged Tuesday that one of the other six men had been kept in protective custody for the past five months, and the case developed after extensive talks with him.

The new charges were filed three years to the day after Ruscitti’s death.

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“This just goes to show that, if you step out of line, you may get away with it for the moment and maybe for a while,” Sheriff’s Lt. John Tenwolde said. “But you can’t be certain.”

Nix and the others were charged with conspiring to carry out a murder for hire and with executing that murder.

Ruscitti was shot four times in the chest Sept. 17, 1988, after he was beckoned by his wife to see two men who called for him at the front door of their Leucadia home.

Ruscitti had been active in the civil lawsuit, which represents more than 300 people who had sold cars for Center City Ford and, later, Kearny Mesa Ford after the dealership changed ownership and name. Prosecutors allege that Nix wanted Ruscitti killed to halt the civil lawsuit.

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The suit, which is pending in San Diego Superior Court, alleges that Ruscitti and others had been cheated on their commissions because the dealership’s owners--Nix’s parents, when it was called Center City Ford--had systematically altered factory invoices and other figures.

The indictment alleges that Nix borrowed $10,000 to pay for Ruscitti’s death and directed one of his employees, Paul A. Gonzalez, 42, of Rowland Heights, to arrange the killing, furnishing him with the money and a photo of Ruscitti.

Gonzalez has been on the material witness floor of the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown San Diego since May and has been cooperating with authorities in piecing together the case, according to an affidavit on file at San Diego federal court.

Others charged with participating in the killing were Jose Miranda of Mexico; Albert Vargas, 27, of Baldwin Park; Rock Timothy Holton, 37, of Upland; Steven Vernon Gates, 38, of Upland; and Paul A. Gonzalez Jr., 21, of Rowland Heights, son of Paul A. Gonzalez.

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Miranda remains at large, probably in Mexico, but the others have been arrested or have surrendered to authorities, and bail hearings are set for Friday, prosecutors said.

Nix, who has remained at the MCC without bail since he was arrested May 9, is scheduled to appear in court for a routine hearing Oct. 7.


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