Mechanic Testifies That Car Dealer Gave Him $10,000 to Hire Hit Man : Trial: William Wayne Nix is accused of ordering the shooting of Leucadia auto salesman Sal Ruscitti.


A mechanic testified Monday in Vista Superior Court that a former owner of a car dealership gave him $10,000 to hire a hit man to kill a Leucadia car salesman.

In the trial of William Wayne Nix, Paul Gonzalez testified that he recruited his 18-year-old son to be part of the gangland-style shooting of Sal Ruscitti. After the killing, Gonzalez bought one of the getaway cars as a gift to his son, Paul Gonzalez Jr.

Appearing in a white prison jumpsuit, the senior Gonzalez said that Nix, who had been the head of Center City Ford in Kearny Mesa before opening his own dealership in Pomona, gave him $10,000 to pay others to kill Ruscitti.


Nix allegedly wanted to have Ruscitti killed because he was one of the leaders of a 1986 lawsuit claiming that sales staff of Center City Ford had been systematically bilked out of commissions by Nix’s parents.

Gonzalez, whom the defense contends masterminded the shooting on his own to curry favor with Nix, testified that he never laid eyes on the man whose murder he plotted and that he received nothing in return for the September, 1988, killing.

Asked by Assistant U.S. Atty. Larry Burns why he agreed to take part in the killing even though he received nothing from it, Gonzalez said, “I was trying to please Mr. Nix.”

Gonzalez, who worked for Nix’s dealership in Pomona and lived in Rowland Heights, even had to pay for the getaway car that his son wanted, though it came off the Will Nix Ford lot.

“Were you concerned at all that this vehicle might be identified and somehow be connected to your son?” defense attorney William Fletcher asked.

“Yes, I was,” Gonzalez responded.

“But you still gave it to him?” Fletcher asked.

“Yes, because he wanted a car. When he drove the car, he liked it,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said he had not planned to involve his son in the murder plot but that “he just walked into the house at the wrong time and we were just getting ready to leave, and I let him come with me.”

Neither Gonzalez nor his son witnessed the shooting. Jose (Tonto) Miranda is believed to be the actual triggerman but has eluded authorities who believe he has fled to Mexico.

A fourth man, Gonzalez’s son-in-law Albert Vargas, was with Miranda at the time of the shooting and plans to testify today for the prosecution.

Before Ruscitti was killed, Nix and another mechanic had traveled from Pomona to San Diego in a failed attempt to kill Ruscitti using Uzi semiautomatic guns that Gonzalez had purchased for them, Gonzalez testified.

A few days after the failed attempt, Nix called Gonzalez into his office to ask him to help kill Ruscitti, Gonzalez testified.

“Mr. Nix called the man a red snake and that he was suing him for $100,000,” Gonzalez testified. Gonzalez later said that Nix told him Ruscitti was trying to blackmail him, not sue him.

Nix “asked me if I knew some people that could get rid of him, could kill him. . . . I said I wouldn’t kill anybody, but I told him about my brother-in-law, that he would kill him,” Gonzalez said.

Last November Gonzalez and Vargas both pleaded guilty to one count of murder for hire and another of using a firearm during a crime of violence. While federal sentencing guidelines demand that they be put in prison for life without parole, they could receive leniency for their testimony in the Nix case.

Both Vargas and Gonzalez are being held in the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown San Diego.