LANCASTER – The California Supreme Court refused Wednesday to hear the case of two men who were convicted of the murders of a prominent plastic surgeon and another man nearly a year later at the doctor’s 200-acre ranch in the Antelope Valley.
The state’s highest court denied the defense’s petition seeking its review of the case against Antonio Martinez and Arturo Rosales Verdin, who were found guilty of the July 5, 2006 killing of Dr. Esfandiar “Steve” Kadivar, 64, and the April 28, 2007, killing of Efrain Soto Martines.
The justices also refused to review the case against co-defendant Nicolas Olvera Cordoba, who was convicted of Martines’ killing. Jurors deadlocked on a murder charge against him involving Kadivar, for whom he worked as a ranch hand.
In an April 20 ruling, a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that the trial court erred in denying a defense motion that Cordoba be tried separately from Martinez.
The justices also rejected the defense’s contention that incriminating statements made by Verdin about his involvement in Kadivar’s killing were obtained in violation of his Miranda rights.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Blake said the killings were motivated by greed and envy, saying that Cordoba had “murderous designs on both of them for money.”
Cordoba had been the doctor’s “trusted right-hand man for six or seven years before the murder,” helping him to manage the ranch about 15 miles west of Lancaster, where they grew alfalfa and pistachios, the prosecutor said.
“At some point, Nicolas Cordoba decided he wanted more,” Blake told jurors during the trial of Martinez and Verdin.
The prosecutor alleged that Cordoba orchestrated the doctor’s murder in order to take control of the ranch and that on July 5, 2006, Martinez ambushed the victim, opening fire with a high-powered rifle.
Kadivar’s unsuspecting family later leased the ranch to Cordoba, asking him to pay $20,000 per year, according to Blake. Cordoba then convinced Martines, an old friend, to come in as a partner, telling him the rent was $40,000 and asking him to pay half, the prosecutor said.
“Almost immediately, from the time this deal was struck, there was friction,” Blake said.
Eventually Cordoba began looking for someone to murder his partner and found Marco Antonio Garcia, according to the prosecutor. Cordoba paid Garcia $5,000 to kill Martines, who was shot while working at the ranch.
Martinez, Verdin and Cordoba were each sentenced in January 2015 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Garcia pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for Martines’ killing. He was sentenced to 28 years to life in state prison.
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