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Man arranged to have wife killed, then plotted to kill hitmen, prosecutors say

May 4, 2011 |  4:05 pm

FayedA man suspected of masterminding the fatal stabbing of his estranged wife at a Century City parking garage confessed to a jail cellmate that he had arranged the slaying and then plotted from behind bars to kill other participants in the crime, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Eric Harmon said James Fayed told the inmate, who was cooperating with authorities, that the people who carried out the killing passed up several better opportunities he had arranged before striking in the busy Westside area of the city.

The prosecutor said Fayed organized the killing because he was embroiled in a bitter -– and potentially expensive –- divorce with his estranged wife, Pamela, and feared she would cooperate with a federal investigation into their international gold trading business.

Harmon played excerpts of the inmate’s recorded conversation in which Fayed expressed contempt for his “money-grubbing” wife and said she would not listen to reason.

“She just ran her mouth too much,” Fayed said in the recording. He told the inmate that he would act the same way if given the chance. “If she’d just kept her mouth shut,” he said.

Fayed, 48, is on trial for murder and conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the July 28, 2008, killing and could face the death penalty if convicted.

His attorney, Mark Werksman, told jurors that his client’s cellmate, Shawn Smith, was a habitual liar who tried to entice Fayed into a plot to kill at least one of the men who helped carry out his wife’s slaying.

Fayed, the attorney said, was confused and tried to adopt the aggressive “macho attitude” of his cellmate during their conversation.

“He’s an innocent man wrongly accused of a crime he didn’t commit,” Werksman said.

Werksman pointed the finger at another possible suspect, telling jurors that Fayed’s older sister, Mary Mercedes, was possessive and protective of her brother and had a motive and the opportunity to kill her sister-in-law.

-- Jack Leonard

Photo: Pamela Fayed. Credit: LAPD