Kimes Found Guilty of Murder

Times Staff Writers

A jury on Wednesday convicted Sante Kimes -- part of a notorious mother-and-son con-artist team -- of killing a Granada Hills businessman in 1998 after he learned she had taken a fraudulent loan out in his name.

Sante Kimes, 71, who is already serving time for killing an elderly socialite in New York, faces a life sentence in state prison without parole in the death of David Kazdin, 63.

A subdued Kimes, who appeared to be praying before the verdict was read and held a small Bible, bowed her head as the clerk read the first-degree murder conviction.

Kazdin’s two adult children, Steve and Linda, cried and hugged at the verdict. “I don’t know if there are any right words. I’m just satisfied,” the victim’s son said. “Many lives were lost as a part of her corruption and greed.”


Kimes and her son, Kenneth Kimes, have been the subject of movies and books describing their lives as grifters traveling around the country committing crimes. They are suspected in at least one other disappearance.

The jurors, who deliberated for five days before reaching a decision, said the evidence against Sante Kimes was strong. Some of the most compelling testimony came from Kenneth Kimes, 29, who admitted to shooting Kazdin in the head on his mother’s orders.

“A lot of things pointed in the direction of her guilt,” said one juror, John Saldana.

Sante Kimes was also convicted of the special allegations of murdering for financial gain and killing a witness. Attorneys in the case, citing a gag order issued by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy-Powell, were unable to comment on the case.

Kenneth Kimes testified he shot Kazdin on March 13, 1998, in the man’s Granada Hills home and wrapped the body in trash bags. The body was found the next day in a bin near Los Angeles International Airport.

Kimes pleaded guilty to murder and agreed to testify against his mother to avoid a possible death sentence. Kimes, who also faces a life sentence without parole, testified that his mother ordered him to kill Kazdin and to dump the body. The family motto, he said, was “No body, no crime.”

During the trial in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom, Sante Kimes tearfully testified in her own defense, denying her role in Kazdin’s death and saying that he was her “best friend.” She angrily accused the detectives of planting evidence and the prosecutor of paying witnesses to lie.

“You’re the real murderer here,” Kimes told Deputy Dist. Atty. Eleanor Hunter. “You don’t know what justice is.”

Her testimony, given against the advice of her counsel, did not go over well with the panel. “She incriminated herself,” said a female juror who did not wish to be identified.

Hunter told jurors in closing arguments that Sante Kimes is a killer who got her son to do the dirty work. Defense attorney Ray Newman maintained that Kimes had nothing to do with Kazdin’s slaying.

Both mother and son were convicted in New York in 2000 of murdering 82-year-old Irene Silverman in a plot to swindle her out of her mansion. Her body was never found, but Kenneth Kimes testified that he left it inside a trash bin in New Jersey.

In the L.A. case, David Kazdin agreed to allow his name to be put on a house that Sante Kimes owned in Las Vegas. Years later, Kimes forged her longtime acquaintance’s name to obtain a $280,000 loan on the house. When Kazdin learned of the loan, he called the bank, which began an investigation.

Sante Kimes then applied for fire insurance and her son said he set the house on fire. They tried unsuccessfully to collect the $500,000 in insurance money. Sante and Kenneth Kimes, prosecutors said, tried to pressure Kazdin into saying the loan was authorized, but he refused.

It will be determined later whether Kimes serves her time in New York or California, the district attorney’s office said. Kazdin’s daughter, Linda, hopes Sante Kimes will be returned to New York. “I don’t think she likes New York,” she said. “So send her back to somewhere she doesn’t like.”

Sante Kimes will return to court on Sept. 17 for her sentencing hearing. Her son is scheduled to be sentenced July 30.