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TV chef's alleged murder-for-hire plot may have been fueled by fertility problems, sources say [Updated]

May 17, 2010 |  1:02 pm

Investigators are looking into the possibility that the murder-for-hire scheme in which a former TV chef allegedly tried to have homeless people kill his wife might have been fueled by the couple's fertility problems, sources familiar with the case told The Times.

The sources said onetime Food Network personality and author Juan-Carlos Cruz may have solicited his wife's murder as part of a murder-suicide plan. While the scenario is under investigation, some law enforcement officials are skeptical that Cruz planned to kill himself.

Authorities have not publicly stated what they believe the motive for the alleged plot was.

[Updated at 2:22 p.m.: Cruz appeared in the courtroom of L.A. Superior Court Judge Keith Schwartz on Monday and pleaded not guilty to solicitation of murder and attempted murder of his wife, using two homeless men.

Cruz appeared in court unshaven and handcuffed. He was dressed in a red T-shirt and blue jeans. His next court date is June 23. He was being held in lieu of $2-million bail.]

The sources, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because the case was ongoing, said Cruz allegedly provided a weapon and a cellphone to at least one homeless man in Santa Monica. The man informed police, claiming Cruz had asked him to kill his wife.

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

Cruz, 48, is due to appear in court Monday 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 weeklong investigation.

-- Sam Quinones at the Airport Courthouse and Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton

Photo: Food TV