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Former Food Network chef targeted wife in murder-for-hire scheme, prosecutors charge

May 17, 2010 | 11:48 am

Prosecutors on Monday charged a onetime Food Network personality and author Juan-Carlos Cruz in connection with an alleged scheme to hire two homeless men to kill his wife, a spokeswoman for the department said.

Cruz, 48, is due to appear in court this afternoon to answer to two felony counts including one count of attempted murder and one count of solicitation to commit murder, said Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office. The Westwood resident was arrested by undercover Santa Monica police detectives at a Cheviot Hills dog park last Thursday after a week-long investigation.

According to police officials, Cruz approached people homeless in Santa Monica and asked them to kill someone for him. One of the men who was approached contacted the police department and described details of the alleged solicitation plot including including how, where and when the target was to be killed.

On Monday, prosecutors identified Cruz's wife, attorney Jennifer Campbell, as the alleged target of the scheme.

Cruz, who was best known for his show was described by neighbors and co-workers as a devout churchgoer, community volunteer and doting husband. Cruz was a dog owner who volunteered at Love on 4 Paws, a therapy program that provides animals to sick children.

A former sous chef, he created a television show, "Cruising in the Kitchen," that aired on a local California public-access station. That led to a featured appearance on the premiere season of Discovery Health network's "Body Challenge," on which he shed 43 pounds. He lost 17 more pounds after the show ended, according to his biography.

In 2004, the network signed him to produce the television show "Calorie Commando," in which guests challenged him to prepare their favorite meals with fewer calories while retaining the taste.

--Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton

Photo: SMPD