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California

Hit man in ‘Yom Kippur murders’ dies of natural causes on death row

Steven Homick in court
Attorney Ralph Novotney, left, with James Barnes, right, and Steven Homick in an L.A. courtroom on Aug. 23, 1989. Homick, who was on death row for his role in two 1985 murders, died Nov. 5, 2014, of natural causes
(Jeff Share)

A San Quentin State Prison inmate convicted in the murder-for-hire deaths of a Brentwood couple in 1985, dubbed the “Yom Kippur murders,” died Wednesday of natural causes, authorities said.

Steven Homick, 74, died at a nearby hospital, according to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The former Los Angeles police officer was sentenced to death in 1995 for the murders of Gerald and Vera Woodman. They were gunned down Sept. 25, 1985, while parking their Mercedes after a dinner marking the end of Yom Kippur.

Authorities said Gerald Woodman opened the door to his car and was fatally shot by Homick, armed with a .38-caliber pistol. Woodman, 67, was struck twice, and Vera Woodman, 63, three times.

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Authorities determined that Homick and his brother Robert Homick, a Westside attorney, were hired by the couple’s sons as hit men.

They were both convicted of first-degree murder, but Robert Homick was sentenced to life in prison.

One of the couple’s sons, Neil Woodman, was sentenced to 25 years to life for his role. A second son, Stewart, was convicted of first-degree murder and given a life sentence. He escaped a possible death sentence by agreeing to testify against Neil.

The case also gained notoriety as the “ninja murders” because a witness confused a black-hooded sweatshirt worn by one of the assailants with the garb worn by ninjas.

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At the time of the slayings, the Woodman family was in a bitter business dispute.

Prosecutors said the Woodman brothers expected to collect $506,000 from their mother’s insurance policy. They said Neil and Stewart Woodman needed the money to prop up a failing Chatsworth-based plastic company their father had founded.

Since 1978 when California reinstated the death penalty, 65 condemned inmates have died from natural causes, 23 committed suicide and 13 have been executed. One was executed in Missouri and six have died from other causes, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said.

There are 749 people on California’s death row.

adolfo.flores@latimes.com

Twitter: @AdolfoFlores3


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