Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Lost in Transportation

From: Los Angeles Daily News

It's an airline traveler's biggest headache: They're headed from Point A to Point B but their luggage ends up ... well, somewhere in between.

That happened with an estimated 30 million bags worldwide in 2005, according to an industry report released Monday. About 200,000 were never reunited with their owners.

The percentage of bags that were mishandled - about 1 percent of all luggage - represented a 43 percent increase from 2004. That cost the airline industry about $2.5 billion - $900 million more than the year before, according to a report by SITA Inc., a company that produces luggage tracking technology.

Increased traffic, tighter connection times and added security are blamed for the increased number of lost bags.

But industry officials were quick to note that unfortunate travelers typically get mishandled luggage within 24 hours. But American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith acknowledged, "all the statistics in the world don't matter at all if it is your bag."

After 90 days, most of the major U.S. airlines sell retrieved luggage to the Unclaimed Baggage Center, a 40,000-square-foot Alabama department store that "Good Morning America" has called "one of the biggest tourist attractions in the state." The baggage center pays an undisclosed amount regardless of the bags' content.

The center sold about 1 million items last year, said spokeswoman Brenda Cantrell, "everything from nail clippers to a diamond ring."

Eight years ago, Unclaimed Baggage Center found a real gem: a 5.8-carat solitaire diamond ring that appraised for $46,000. They sold it for half price.

Cantrell has noticed, however, that the center comes across far more men's wedding bands than women's.

Airports also make a little extra money when bags are left in airport common areas. LAX has a warehouse on Century Boulevard where it holds discarded luggage for 97 days. After that, a bag's clothes are donated to area shelters and valuables are sent to the LAPD property department in Van Nuys and auctioned off.

About 2,000 items - laptops, cell phones, jewelry and wallets lacking IDs - were sold, said airport spokesman Harold Johnson. The income generated is not separated from the auctioning of police seizures.

The much smaller Bob Hope Airport in Burbank got $1,932 from an unknown number of auctioned items in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2005.

To reduce the risk of losing luggage, airline officials advise travelers to label their bags on the outside and inside, double-check the flight tag placed on their bags and arrive early. Most importantly, don't pack things you can't afford to lose: cash, jewelry, medicine.

If you are flying domestically, however, there is a far lesser chance your bags won't travel with you than SITA reported worldwide. The Department of Transportation reported this month that about seven of every 1,000 passengers on domestic airlines in 2005 reported mishandled baggage - less than one-tenth of a percent of travelers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A Golden Year

From: Los Angeles Daily News

Jim Altmann fell asleep on a recent night thinking about his mother's victorious claim that she - not the Austrian government - was the rightful owner of five Gustav Klimt paintings worth about $300 million.

He dreamed his family was sitting in the living room of his mother's Los Angeles home when the doorbell rang. It was UPS. They had the paintings.

"I called my mom and told her about the dream," said Altmann, 50, of Agoura Hills. "And she said, 'You're not too far off. They're going to ship them to the L.A. County Museum of Art."'

The Klimt paintings that Maria Altmann knew as an Austrian girl left Vienna this week for Los Angeles, where her family found refuge after escaping the Nazis almost 70 years ago.

But the paintings are not the kind to be hung above the mantle. On April 4, they will be exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where they will remain through June.

"Eventually, they will be sold to museums or the appropriate people so they can be seen," said Altmann, the 90-year-old "Klimt Warrior," as her sons call her, who sued Austria on behalf of herself and four other heirs.

The paintings are believed to be the largest restitution ever ordered in a Nazi-looting case. They include the 1907 gold portrait of Altmann's aunt known as "Adele Bloch-Bauer I," which is valued at $120 million and is considered one of Klimt's two best pieces.

LACMA, which asked to hold the exhibition, is working with Altmann and the other four heirs to keep the paintings on "permanent display," said Stephanie Barron, the museum's senior curator of modern art.

"We can hope," Barron said. "There are a lot of very wealthy people in Los Angeles."

Klimt, who was born in Vienna in 1862 and died in 1918, was a personal friend of Altmann's aunt and uncle, the Bloch-Bauers. They were one of three families who owned most of his paintings.

Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer were part of Austria's wealthy Jewish community during the early 20th century. He was a sugar magnate, she a Social Democrat who mingled with leftist politicians, artists and intellectuals.

They couldn't have children. Their wealth was willed to two nieces and a nephew. Altmann is the only one still living.

When Adele Bloch-Bauer died in 1924, she left all her property to her husband but asked him to bequeath their art collection to the Austrian National Gallery at the Belvedere Palace.

Before he died, though, Nazis seized the Bloch-Bauer possessions and property, including the Klimt paintings, which had hung in Adele's bedroom as a memorial.

The paintings became a source of pride for Austria. One of the country's most important artists, Klimt's work is erotic and suggestive, distinguished by gold backgrounds and mosaic patterns. He was known to spend a year or more on some pieces.

"The paintings give us a sense of the power of art at the turn of the century in Vienna," Barron said. "They are glorious, intimate, psychological and astonishingly beautiful paintings that transport us to another time and place."

Altmann, the daughter of a lawyer, had grown up with maids, cooks and a butler. But she was largely unaware of their wealth.

In 1938, Altmann's father died naturally and her husband, Fritz, was placed in a concentration camp. When the paintings were stolen later that year, Altmann said, "I couldn't have cared less."

Eventually, Fritz escaped. He and his wife fled, settling in Los Angeles in 1942. They began socializing with other Austrian Jewish refugees and put together a familiar life in an unfamiliar land.

Fritz worked for his brother's cashmere sweater company; Maria ran a Beverly Hills women's boutique. But they didn't live like the Bloch-Bauers had.

"When I was a little boy, my mom showed me a reproduction of this painting," Jim Altmann, the youngest of four, said about the gold portrait. "My mom said, 'If my aunt would have left us this painting, our lives would have been totally different."'

Thirty years ago, Altmann moved into a simple one-story house on a quiet street with a coastal breeze. Her Cheviot Hills backyard is quintessential Los Angeles: a pool and a view of the Pacific. The interior is decorated with antique statues and paintings. But there is no place for a real Klimt; besides, Altmann already has that "Adele I" lithograph - not to mention the portrait's place on wrapping paper and a coffee mug, which Altmann finds "tasteless."

Klimt was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud and Arnold Schoenberg, the famous composer and grandfather of E. Randol Schoenberg. Altmann was a close friend of the younger Schoenberg's maternal grandmother and has always seen him as family.

"Randy" was 32 when she called him with hopes his mother could provide legal advice in recovering the Klimt paintings. It was 1998 and Austria was considering - and eventually passed - a law that required the National Gallery to return any donations made in exchange for having other property seized by the Nazis returned.

Schoenberg's parents were vacationing in Vienna and the young lawyer quickly found himself taking on the case. It was all-consuming.

"My night job was a lot more fun," he said of the unbilled time he spent on the Klimt case. "It was the kind of thing you could talk about at cocktail parties and everybody would be interested."

All his client ever wanted was for the Austrian government to acknowledge that the paintings still belonged to her family, Altmann said. She made a plea for an apology as late as during a 1998 meeting with Austrian officials in Vienna. When they walked, she sued.

The case went through the courts until reaching the U.S. Supreme Court in February 2004. When the court ruled that Altmann could sue Austria, Schoenberg suggested they instead have the case decided by three Austrian arbitrators. He didn't want a U.S. court to issue a rule in their favor and have the Austrian government balk.

"We really were looking at an endless and hopeless procedure in the U.S. until the Austrian government agreed to the arbitration," said Schoenberg, who attended Harvard-Westlake when it was Harvard School.

Now 39, he's argued before the U.S. Supreme Court (winning the rare right to sue a foreign country), he's won an unprecedented case (proving that five national treasures didn't belong to that nation) and he's secured himself a seemingly large reward (though he and Altmann declined to discuss the specifics).

"It turned out my night job was actually much better than my day job. Who knew it?" Schoenberg said. "Everybody just thought I was nuts."

Saturday, March 11, 2006

My Date with The Donald

From: Los Angeles Daily News

UNIVERSAL CITY - You just don't turn down a job interview with Donald Trump - not even if you're a newspaper reporter instead of an wannabe executive.

Trump was in Southern California on Friday to promote a 17-city casting call for the sixth season of the NBC reality show "The Apprentice," which will be filmed in Los Angeles for the first time.

A contact at NBC had arranged for my interview to be done by The Donald himself, so I worked late Thursday on my application and resume. I needed something extra to wow Trump and become one of 16 cast members. But even a magician can only do so much with "student, intern, reporter, reporter."

My printer failed about five minutes before midnight, and I made a quick run to Kinko's. I managed to get four hours of sleep before getting myself ready and driving to Universal City, arriving before 6 a.m., even though NBC had said not to.

About 25 people were ahead of me when I stepped into line at 5:44 a.m. It was so cold that Farrah Evagues was wrapped in a gray blanket as she sat in a pink folding chair at the head of the line.

"We left Orange County at 2, got here at 3 and then drove around for an hour trying to figure out where we were supposed to be," said Evagues, a 23-year-old director of operations for an Anaheim military-electronics company. Her mom was waiting in the car.

The line quickly grew to several hundred. But this being Los Angeles, hundreds of others had mailed in taped submissions.

Back in the line, dressed in a black suit and red T-shirt that read "future billionaire," was Jon Cronstedt, 24, a mortgage division manager from Orange County who lamented that interest rates were rising and his list of prospective clients was shrinking.

"The Apprentice," he said, would broaden his career opportunities.

"You watch three seasons of the show and you figure, Why not?"

Also looking for a career change was math teacher Bill Newyear, 58.

"An MBA is fine. Young and energetic is good. But an old dog can learn new tricks," said Newyear, a silver-haired teacher at New Vista Middle School in Lancaster who "would leave teaching in a heartbeat because the 250 grand or whatever sure beats the snot out of what teachers make."

Then there was David Schwartz, a 43-year-old artist from Oxnard, who already has plans for Trump City, "a fascinating place, very futuristic" that supposedly is being planned for the moon.
"My creative ideas can not only help the Trump industry but help the world," said Schwartz, who wore a black beret, tattered, paint-covered blue jeans and a jacket and tie.

Shivering next to him was Eric Mark, a business consultant from Marina del Rey who got a call-back interview when he auditioned in San Diego for season four.

Mark thinks he has a real shot of making the final cut this time and is ready for the reality TV ordeal: "It certainly takes a certain kind of person, the kind who enjoy challenges and humiliation."

After nearly four frigid hours outside, my back aching, I got into the warmth of the replica Globe Theatre. There were five tables inside a large room. Most had 10 applicants and two casting directors asking the questions.

My table had nine hopefuls - and Trump.

We had a former Miss Yugoslavia, an investment banking wunderkind and a 30-year-old once worth $60 million but now almost penniless, save the gold Rolex he kept as a memento from his salad days.

TV crews and their blinding lights surrounded us. I knew I was going to do something stupid. After introductions, which were humbling at best, Trump asked us to debate whether dating should be allowed among colleagues.

"If Mr. Trump were dating one of the contestants, I'd see a problem with that," said Alex, the kind but unsmiling investment banker from Goldman Sachs.

Trump and his casting producer based their picks on the way candidates interacted during the debate and articulated their points. I was at a loss, drowned beneath the din of a few dominating voices. I quickly learned how frustrating it must be to actually be on this show.

After about five minutes, Trump asked each of us to fire someone. Miss Yugoslavia, the first to decide, said something about "glasses" and pointed at me.

Scott Salyers, the casting major domo, told the group to avoid giving this journalist the boot. I asked that I not be treated special.

"Well, then, everybody is going to pick you," the amiable Salyers said.

Charles, who is still in college, was the other offender to finger me. I soon returned the favor.

"The first thing he said was, 'I'm interested in business.' I don't want someone who isn't interested in business," I said. "I want someone who knows business."

"You did say that, Charles," Trump nodded, validating my contribution.

And like that, 10 minutes after it started, our interviews were over.

We were told that everyone selected for a follow-up interview in May would be called by the end of the day. "So leave your cell phones on," Salyers advised.

Before I left, I pulled Trump away from the cameras and asked what I had been dying to know: How did I do?

"You did great," he told me.

It was 11 a.m. I went home happy. And I waited.

My phone never rang.

Drowned Dreams

From: Los Angeles Daily News

Kimberly Pandelios moved to Northridge from Florida so her husband could try his luck as a drummer. And so she, too, could seek fame and fortune.

Kim was an aspiring model with limited success sporting one-piece bathing suits and lingerie. Responding to a model-wanted ad in a local weekly, the 20-year-old mother drove into the Angeles National Forest to meet a photographer she knew only as Paul. She wanted the gig; her family needed the money.

She awoke that Thursday - Feb. 27, 1992 - with stars in her eyes. The mercury reached 87 degrees, the month's hottest day, and the sun shone brightly - ideal conditions for an outdoor photo shoot.

After taking her 13-month-old son, Nicholas, to a baby sitter, she drove to the Sherman Oaks home of a woman trying to start a men's lifestyle magazine. Kim was going to appear on its first cover. From there, she visited a salon en route to meeting Paul.

"Then," Los Angeles County sheriff's Detective Stephen Davis said, "she fell off the face of the Earth."

Peter Pandelios grew worried when his wife wasn't home for dinner. Paul had called at 2:30 to confirm his appointment with Kim and phoned again about 7 to say she had left her planner. But Peter thought he had to wait 48 hours to report her missing.

About 2,300 miles away in Reading, Pa., Magaly Spector learned of her newlywed daughter's disappearance but knew she hadn't run away. "I thought she had an accident," she said. "I went crazy. I called every hospital in L.A. I called funeral homes. I just went crazy."

Late that night, an off-duty police officer cutting across Angeles Forest Highway on his way home spotted a small fire in the passenger seat of a Chrysler Laser near the Monte Cristo Campground. By the time firefighters arrived, flames had engulfed the sports car. It was registered to Kim Pandelios of Northridge.

Over the following year, Kim's family feared the worst. A distraught Peter initially drove aimlessly about the city, hoping to spot his wife by chance. Exhausted, he crashed his car, abruptly interrupting his search.

Magaly kept developing empty theories to justify her daughter's disappearance. "One day I was thinking she was alive, and one day I was thinking she was dead."

A ringing phone was a fleeting celebration. She always answered with the expectation of hearing Kim's voice. It wasn't until March 1993 that she got the call that ended her optimism: Two gold miners had found a human skull and bones in the brush near the site where the Chrysler was found.

Investigators discovered handcuffs nearby and a black bra and panties that had been cut off.

"The whole thing collapsed," Magaly said - her theories, her hopes, herself.

Watching the evening news that night, Brad Leon saw Kim's photo and was convinced she was the same doe-eyed blonde he had seen a year earlier at the same site.

An off-road enthusiast, Leon had been driving along the dirt roads near the old Monte Cristo Gold Mine when he found a path new to him. He drove down it about 100 feet before encountering a makeshift camp.

There he made eye contact with a beautiful woman dressed for another occasion. It was a Saturday, two days after Kim disappeared. Suddenly, his Baja Bug was surrounded by three men he described as outlaw bikers, with long hair and tattoos.

"What's your problem, man?" one of the men repeatedly rasped as the three shook Leon's Bug. He sped out, not realizing the woman needed him, he said on a 1995 episode of the TV crime drama, "Unsolved Mysteries."

"If she would have given me an indication she was in trouble, of course I would have done something. But I didn't know," Leon lamented. "This person basically died because of my inaction, because of my ignorance."

The segment ended with host Robert Stack saying, "Kimberly's family and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department hope that the man named Paul, or someone who knows him, is watching our broadcast tonight. The authorities would like to emphasize that Paul is not a suspect but that he could be pivotal in solving this case if he still has Kimberly's missing appointment book."

A year later, Linda Sobek, a former Raiders cheerleader and swimsuit model who had posed for Playboy, was raped and murdered. There were uncanny similarities between her death and Kim's: They were brunettes posing as blondes; they were last seen alive going to photo shoots; their remains were found in the Angeles National Forest.

Authorities quickly identified Charles Rathbun as Sobek's killer. A photographer who cleaned up taking pictures of busty babes with sexy cars, Rathbun got life in prison without the possibility of parole and a made-for-TV movie. He was identified as a suspect in Kim's murder, but there was no evidence, except coincidence.

Investigators still hadn't located Paul.

David Rademaker had seen the "Unsolved Mysteries" episode about Kim. He told his girlfriend the theory posited on the show was wrong. And he believed the cops knew it and were trying to convince the killer to lower his guard and start making mistakes that would lead to his arrest.

It marked the second time Rademaker, who was in his early 30s at the time, had mentioned the young model's murder to Manya Ksendzov, his 15-year-old girlfriend. He previously told her he had been a person of interest in Kim's death because authorities found his phone number on her phone bill shortly before she vanished.

The third time it entered conversation proved a bit more frightening. On the phone, Ksendzov told Rademaker she was tired of being manipulated for sex. She wanted to date someone her own age.

He didn't take well to that idea and threatened to start sexual rumors about her, according to court testimony. He also warned her that she might suffer at his hands like the young model he raped after she resisted his advances in the forest.

Rademaker reminded Ksendzov of the trip they had made a few months earlier into that forest, how they pulled off the highway after driving for a while, and he wandered off. She assumed he had gone to urinate, but he told her he had been surveying the site where he drowned Kim and that he found one of her leg bones.

"He said ... she was pleading with him to let her go, that she wouldn't press charges, that she would just pretend it hadn't happened because she wanted to go home to her kid," Ksendzov recently testified.

She thought he was lying, trying to scare her. And it did, but not enough to report anything until her family sought statutory rape charges against him two years later. Even then, Rademaker was not named a suspect or arrested in Kim's murder.

Across the country, Kim's mother, brother, widower and son were trying to move on.
Nicholas had immediately returned to Pennsylvania to live with his paternal grandparents, with whom he still resides. After a few months, Peter left his job filling vending machines and returned to the Schuylkill Valley.

"It's something I'll never get over," he testified last month. "I'm the guy whose wife got murdered. That's who I'll always be."

Kim's family had moved to Reading, Pa., when she was 9. She was born Hossanna Spector on Nov. 13, 1971, in Cuba, where her father's Jewish family landed after fleeing the Communists in Russia. It was an ill-timed move, but that's where Roberto Spector met Magaly Bernal.

In 1980, they traded Castro for Jimmy Carter and immigrated to the United States on the Mariel Boatlift. It was a dangerous mission for the family, particularly because Kim's mother had become a national chess champion at a time when chess boards were the intellectual battlefield between Communist countries and democracies.

"I brought her here from Cuba to give her freedom and opportunity - and I lost her," said Magaly, who was completing her doctorate in physics when Kim's remains were found. Today, she is a global manager for Lucent Technology and is one of the leading Latina females in the United States, according to Hispanic Business magazine.

Kim was a cute kid with a wide smile, glowing cheeks and curly brown locks. In photos, she appears years beyond her age. But she seemed ashamed of her roots, friends said. She changed her name, wore blue contacts, dyed her hair.

"Image was very important to Kim, from her blond hair, to not keeping her name of Hossanna, to making sure everyone believed things were great for her," said Julie Chisholm, who as a child lived in the same apartment complex as Kim and spoke with her regularly as an adult.

After graduating from high school, Kim enrolled at Pennsylvania State University. She talked of becoming a computer scientist, but one night she visited a club where the band Gandolf was performing. She was smitten with the drummer, a skinny guy with long, wavy black hair.

She left Penn State to start a family with Peter. They briefly moved to Florida, where they married and Nicholas was born, before moving to Los Angeles in November 1991. Kim told Peter he had a few years to make a name for himself as a musician, her mother recalls. "If it doesn't work, we will go back," Kim said.

Her friends, though, thought Kim would become famous first, with her tanned skin and golden hair that hung to the waist of her 5-foot-2, 100-pound body.

"She was gorgeous," said Stephanie Stamm, an art teacher and hand model. "I figured ... Victoria's Secret will be next."

But L.A. wasn't LaLa Land. Money was tight, and Kim had an itch to return to school. She began looking into enrolling at California State University, Northridge. She was also burdened by the struggles of marriage, Chisholm said.

"She was more likely to call me when she wanted to complain," said Chisholm, who spoke with Kim just days before she was murdered. "She was not happy where her life was."

In late 2003, Sgt. Mike Robinson of the sheriff's cold-case homicide unit peered into the Kimberly Pandelios case and thought there were some workable leads. He asked Detective Thomas Kerfoot to look into it. Kerfoot asked for the assistance of Detective Davis, who had been one of the initial investigators.

Thumbing through old reports, Davis found a statement from Manya Ksendzov that piqued his interest. In a follow-up interview, Ksendzov told him that her ex-boyfriend, Dave Rademaker, had bragged of raping and murdering Kim.

Ksendzov was worried, too. The January 2004 interview occurred 13 days after Rademaker had been paroled. He had served six of his 12 years for his sexual relationship with Ksendzov during the mid `90s and for providing her with heroin.

She was eager to help the detectives; too eager, defense attorneys would later argue.

With Ksendzov's statement, Davis and Kerfoot began building a case against Rademaker, a 40-year-old registered sex offender who once ran a teen party line called The Zoo and lived with his parents in a small, hillside home in Burbank.

He was known to plant fliers for the phone line - like a pre-Internet chat room - at area junior high and high schools.

"Girls would call in and he'd get them hooked. Then he'd take away their user code so they would have to meet him to get it back," said Carlos Bas, a 42-year-old North Hollywood man who encountered Rademaker in the party-line underworld.

Flipping through an old LAPD missing-persons book, Davis found Rademaker's name listed as the boyfriend of a Cynthia Haddon during the time Kim was murdered.

He made several calls before he got Haddon's number.

"I've been waiting quite a while to talk," Haddon responded to Davis, according to court testimony.

She went on to explain that her ex-boyfriend had taken her into the Angeles National Forest on a February night in 1992 because he wanted to torch a sports car he had seen on the side of the two-lane highway.

Haddon agreed to use a special cell phone that would record her conversations with Rademaker. She had been asked by police to get him to talk about the night he torched Kim's car. And he did.
But in a dozen recorded conversations and one taped face-to-face meeting in a Denny's parking lot in Lakewood, Rademaker adamantly denied killing Kim. Arson would be his third strike under the state's "three strikes, you're out" law, and Rademaker assumed he was going to serve life in prison when Haddon told him she had spoken with police. Even then, though, he denied being a murderer.

"I didn't kill her - that's ridiculous," he said, according to the recording.

In their last phone conversation, Rademaker begged Haddon to meet him in person again so he could explain what happened in the forest. He spoke frantically and said he didn't know if he should commit suicide.

It wasn't safe for Haddon to meet him again, the detectives decided. It was time to make an arrest. They would go with the evidence they had.

"This is a bittersweet victory," Sheriff Lee Baca declared at a news conference outside sheriff's headquarters in April 2004. "The satisfaction is knowing we solved the case through bulldog investigative police work."

The monthlong trial began in January. It was more "Law & Order" than "CSI." There was no DNA, no new technology that helped crack the 14-year-old case. It hinged entirely on witness statements - specifically those from Ksendzov and Haddon. District Attorney Steve Cooley wanted the death penalty, and put two of his top prosecutors on the case.

Ksendzov testified that Rademaker had bragged about the murder. She talked about his strange sexual proclivities. And she said he had used aliases for his escort business - among them, Paul.
The defense saw Ksendzov as the prosecution's linchpin. Unlike with Haddon's testimony, which was rooted in recorded conversations with the defendant, they attempted to paint Ksendzov as a biased witness, a former heroin addict bent on seeing her ex "burn in hell."

"She blames him for using her, for getting her into drugs, for killing her successive boyfriend because he OD'd on drugs," defense attorney Chad Calabria said in his closing statement.

Defense attorneys argued that her story was inconsistent. She talked about Rademaker's escort service, but said he was faithful to her; she said he had an affinity for anal sex, but that they rarely engaged in it.

Lastly, the defense noted that in 1998, Ksendzov told two Los Angeles police detectives that Rademaker said Kim was one of his hookers, that he had had sex with her before sending her on her final assignment. Kim's family vehemently denies that she was involved in the sex business.

The defense called Brad Leon to testify about the incident he described on "Unsolved Mysteries," but the prosecution argued that while Leon was well-intentioned, it was not related.

Rademaker did not take the witness stand. His parents didn't come to his defense. (Neighbors said the Rademakers had not been seen for weeks, and a phone message left with his sister was not returned.)

The jury of eight men and four women deliberated for almost four days.

The verdict: guilty. First-degree murder with a special circumstance of kidnapping. Rademaker was sentenced Tuesday - 14 years and one day after Kim was murdered - to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Kim's family flew into Los Angeles the day after he was convicted. The next day, Feb. 17, the family sat in a cold and largely empty ninth-floor hallway at the downtown courthouse. That's where Robert Spector, Kim's younger brother, spent his 23rd birthday.

Her father wasn't there. Roberto Spector had lost touch with his daughter and son after he and Magaly divorced in 1989. Nobody told him about the trial.

"Was he convicted of killing her? Was he sentenced to die yet?" Spector asked in a phone interview. "I'll be really happy to hear that."

Family members waited three hours before Magaly was called to the witness stand during the trial's penalty phase. Over the following two hours, the family explained how the defendant's actions shattered their lives. Then they spent the three-day weekend holed up in The New Otani Hotel in Little Tokyo. And they waited.

After penalty-phase closing arguments Feb. 23, Magaly, her husband and her grandson traveled to the murder site. Riding shotgun heading up Highway 2, Nicholas commented on the natural beauty of the rugged mountains.

"But this is really out there," said Nick, now 15. "I'm definitely thinking this would be a good place to kill somebody."

He has grown up without a mom. The closest thing he has to memories of her come from the home videos he watches with Magaly when she picks him up for the weekend once a month.

"I can remember just, like, a car or something like that. A flash here and there," he said.

The Monte Cristo Campground is about 15 miles north of La Caada Flintridge. Kim's family and Detective Kerfoot stopped at the ranger station to connect with Detective Davis and two Forest Service officers, who led them into the scrub oak, chaparral and manzanita where Kim's remains were found scattered about, likely by an animal.

"This is the creek where he drowned her?" Magaly asked.

She bent down and laid six white roses and a framed photo of Kim on a rock above the water. Then she began to read her daughter's favorite poem, "Los Zapaticos de Rosa" by the Cuban intellectual Jose Marti, which she remembers Kim reciting when she was young.

It sounded like Magaly was crying out for Kim to return as she sobbed through the 64-line poem. She bent down to the shallow creek, which Davis said had been a "rolling river" when Kim was drowned, and washed her hands.

"Listen to that water running: It is her life," Magaly said.

"I know how she was born ... and now I know how she died. And I know her soul is around - she went back to nature."

Hasidic Rhymes

From: Los Angeles Daily News

From: Los Angeles Daily News

NORTHRIDGE - His lyrics and his appearance are clearly Hasidic, but fans of Matisyahu's reggae rhymes are Jews and gentiles alike.

In a black suit and hat and boasting a long beard, Matisyahu entertained a packed crowd Thursday evening in the parking lot of Tower Records with bumping rhythms and punchy rhymes as he promoted the release of his new album, "Youth."

"He's a great inspiration to our people," said Dora Arzhevskiy, a 23-year-old Liberal Jew from West Hills.

"He shows us you can keep your faith and still rock on," volleyed her 20-year-old brother, Eli.

Rock station KROQ-FM (106.7) passed out kosher candy to a diverse crowd not often drawn to a single concert: Hasidic Jews, Rastafarians, clean-cut parents and metal maniacs.

"I like how a Jewish guy can come out and bust into (expletive) reggae and not care what anyone has to (expletive) say. I love that," said P.J. Morrison, a 22-year-old metalhead from Tujunga.

Amazed by Matisyahu's performance on a late-night TV program, Rosemary Wilkins and her husband dragged their 15-year-old daughter, Kathryn, to the reggae artist's free show.

"She's not a huge fan yet. But we go to all her concerts," said Wilkins, a Chatsworth resident, giving Kathryn a nudge.

Matisyahu fed the 2,500 crowd with a five-song set that closed with his hit single, "King Without a Crown," which has been shown on MTV and has saturated radio airwaves.

"Sing to my God all these songs of love and healing/Want Mashiach now so it's time we start revealing," Matisyahu rapped, asking for God to send the Messiah (Mashiach).

His music has been written up in Rolling Stone and The New York Times. Critics wonder whether he is a pioneer or a fluke. Despite a gaggle of journalists begging his publicists for a sound bite Thursday, Matisyahu declined any interviews.

And some critics wonder how seriously they should take the message of his music.

Despite Matisyahu's reggae sound, Rastafarians did not dominate the crowd - and neither did the smell of marijuana.

"Do you think he'd be bummed that he has a fan who's a stoner?" quipped one 21-year-old Calabasas fan who openly puffed on a joint.

Born Matthew Miller, Matisyahu grew up in White Plains, N.Y. He didn't embrace his parents' Judaism, and by age 14 he was wearing dreadlocks and Birkenstock sandals. He spent class time perfecting the art of beat-boxing - making percussion sounds from the mouth - and as a junior he almost burned down his chemistry lab.

That led Matisyahu on a spiritual journey to the Rocky Mountains, where he discovered God and the inspiration to make his first trip to Israel.

But when he returned to New York, Matisyahu felt empty, according to his Web site. He didn't know how to prolong the religious experiences he had had in Colorado and Israel.

So he dropped out of high school and followed the jam band Phish around the country. That ended when the money, and his energy, ran out.

After two years at a wilderness school in Oregon, Matisyahu enrolled at The New School, a liberal arts university in New York, and began writing plays and working on his music.

He also discovered Hasidism and committed his life to the Jewish lifestyle. His music is infused with religious themes, mixing reggae rhythms with Jewish beliefs.

"I doubt that everybody gets the references. But what they definitely get is the passion that is directly connected to religiosity," said Rabbi Tsafreer Lev, who teaches Jewish philosophy to seniors at New Community Jewish High School in West Hills.

Lev's class is studying Hasidism and an upcoming assignment is to write an essay about all the Hasidic references in "King Without a Crown."

"I had him on my iPod before he was the number one requested song on KROQ," said Lev, who was tutoring at the University of Judaism on Thursday night. "I tried to spread the word, but nobody really listens to rabbis."