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Former TV chef Juan Carlos Cruz sentenced to nine years in murder-for-hire plot

December 13, 2010 | 10:46 am

Former Food Network chef Juan Carlos Cruz was sentenced Monday to nine years in state prison after pleading no contest to soliciting two homeless men to kill his wife.

The 48-year-old Westwood resident must serve half his prison term before he is eligible for parole, said Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Chester Horn. Cruz also was ordered to pay $1,870 in restitution.

Santa Monica police say Cruz asked homeless men to commit homicide for him in May. After one of the homeless men told police, investigators launched a weeklong undercover operation that ended with Cruz's arrest in a Cheviot Hills dog park.

Cruz had pleaded no contest in October.

Neighbors and co-workers told The Times it was difficult to reconcile the accusations with the man they had come to know -- a devout churchgoer, community volunteer and doting husband.

A Knights of Columbus member who attended St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, Cruz was a dog owner who volunteered at Love on 4 Paws, a therapy program that provides animals to sick children.

Cruz's wife, Jennifer Campbell, his high-school sweetheart, worked long hours as an attorney, neighbors said. He was often seen walking the couple's two dogs outside the Westside condominium complex where they have lived for many years.

Campbell did not give a victim impact statement.


TV chef who solicited homeless men to kill wife set to be sentenced

Former Food Network TV chef pleads no contest to seeking murder of his wife

Plot thickens in case of former TV chef accused in murder-for-hire plot

-- Andrew Blankstein