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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, July 8, 2004

Ex-Island woman guilty in L.A. murder

By Mason Stockstill
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — A former Hawai'i woman already convicted of killing an elderly New York socialite with the help of her son was found guilty yesterday of orchestrating the murder of a Los Angeles businessman six years ago.

Sante Kimes

The Superior Court jury convicted Sante Kimes, 71, of the first-degree murder of David Kazdin. The panel, which deliberated since June 23, also found to be true special allegations that the crime was carried out for financial gain and that the victim was killed because he was a witness to another crime.

The jury later returned a finding that Kimes had previously been convicted of second-degree murder.

That verdict came after an additional hearing in which the defendant took the stand and testified that the New York conviction should not be considered valid because she was framed, her legal representation was not competent and she was appealing the outcome.

"God is my defense. I pray for justice," she said to the jury as she was wheeled from the witness stand in a wheelchair.

Steven Kazdin, son of the Los Angeles victim, said outside court that he was satisfied with the verdict but he wished Kimes could receive the death penalty.

"We all know that the Kimeses, the real monsters, are serving life in New York," he said. "This trial is about justice for my father."

He called Kimes a "sociopath" and said she mouthed the words "I love you" to him as she was on the witness stand.

Prosecutors said Sante Kimes plotted to kill Kazdin, whose body was found in a trash bin near Los Angeles International Airport in 1998. Prosecutors said she enlisted the help of others, including her son, Kenneth, 29, who testified against his mother during the trial to avoid the death penalty.

The younger Kimes pleaded guilty and said he shot Kazdin in the back of the head on his mother's orders. He said his mother wanted Kazdin killed after he discovered she had fraudulently taken out a $280,000 loan by forging his signature.

Like her son, Sante Kimes faces life in prison without possibility of parole when she is sentenced Sept. 17.

Both mother and son were convicted in 2000 of killing New York socialite Irene Silverman and each was sentenced to more than 100 years in prison.

Sante Kimes lived in Hawai'i with her husband, Kenneth Kimes Sr., for 12 years beginning in the early 1970s. While here, the couple's homes burned twice in blazes that fire investigators said were set deliberately.

In 1985, an 18-year-old domestic worker accused the Kimeses of imprisoning her in their Portlock home.

The Kimeses were convicted of violating federal antislavery laws in Hawai'i and Las Vegas and sentenced to five years in prison. Kenneth Kimes Sr. died in 1994.

Sante and Kenneth Kimes were also reported to be suspects in the 1996 disappearance of banker Syed Bilal Ahmed, who vanished soon after meeting with them in the Bahamas. Kenneth Kimes confessed during the trial that he drowned Ahmed in a bathtub and then threw his weighted body into the ocean.

The son said his mother wanted Ahmed killed because he refused to help her secure a loan from his bank.

Bahamian police said the investigation was continuing.

Sante Kimes denied she or her son killed anybody.

The defendant, in a wheelchair throughout the trial, took the stand three times and had heated exchanges with the prosecutor, calling her "D.A. Death."

Sante Kimes claimed her son was forced to testify against her to spare himself from the death penalty. Her attorney said during closing arguments that the younger Kimes was a coward and derisively referred to him as Kenneth "Mommy Made Me Do It" Kimes.

Kenneth Kimes testified that his mother was a con artist whose motto was: "No body, no crime."