A mysterious Madame X, the reputed head of a Philippine crime syndicate, took center stage this week in the trial of a La Canada Flintridge man accused of murdering his wife.
The Madame X theory was one of a number of possible alternate scenarios defense attorneys suggested for the killing of Tessie Miralle, 49. Other theories included soured business deals and an alleged loan-shark operation.
But after two days of arguments outside the presence of jurors, San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Frederick A. Mandabach refused to allow testimony that Donald Miralle’s attorneys said showed Tessie Miralle moved black market goods, illegal aliens and cocaine for a crime syndicate headed by the late Maria Castro, also known as Madame X.
“She was killed because of her ties to this criminal activity,” said A. Brent Carruth of Woodland Hills, the chief defense attorney. “Mrs. Miralle did not stay home and knit.”
Deputy Dist. Atty. Elizabeth Elwood dismissed the defense assertion. “It’s pathetic,” she said.
Closing arguments were expected to start today or early next week in the trial of Miralle, 47, a Pasadena civil engineer, on charges he murdered his wife of 21 years. Authorities contend that Miralle strangled his wife Sept. 12, 1990, then set her body on fire in the desert 15 miles northwest of Victorville the next day. A painter driving to work found the still-burning body.
Outside the presence of the jury, Carruth offered bank books and testimony of the Miralles’ daughter Anita, 20, that he said showed that Tessie Miralle worked for organized crime and Madame X as far back as her college days in Manila.
“Madame X is to the Philippine Islands and that part of the world what Al Capone was to Chicago, and I can prove that,” Carruth said. In her role as Madame X’s lieutenant, Carruth said, Tessie Miralle made hundreds of thousands of dollars and became a target for murder.
But Mandabach ruled that the defense had not shown enough evidence to link the murder to organized crime. That ruling barred Miralle’s attorneys from bringing the Madame X theory before the jury.
In yet another possible motive, Anita Miralle testified in front of jurors that Los Angeles jewelry wholesaler Eshagh Eshaghzadeh had threatened at least twice to kill her mother in retaliation for her bilking him out of $400,000 in a 1989 real estate deal.
But San Bernardino County homicide Detective Frank Gonzales said he interviewed Eshaghzadeh, who said he had not been swindled by Tessie Miralle and could sell the property now for more than $1 million in profits.
On Wednesday, Eshaghzadeh strongly denied making any threats or having anything to do with Tessie Miralle’s death. He said that although he at first was upset and sued Tessie Miralle for taking a $200,000 commission on their joint deal, he later dropped the suit.
“It’s absolutely nonsense,” Eshaghzadeh said. “They’re trying to throw the jury’s minds in another direction.” He said Tessie Miralle was “a good lady, hard-working and a smart businesswoman. She only did good for us. She only made profit.”