May 11, 2000

(Ford) was highly likely involved in the conspiracy to kill the victim in the capacity of the mastermind ... for financial gains related to the business activities of Biofem.

Court documents from police investigation

Documents point to Ford as mastermind of murder attempt

By Tanya Rose
Irvine World News


Court documents unsealed last week reveal an early belief by investigators that Biofem co-owner Larry C. Ford masterminded the late-February murder attempt on his business partner, James Patrick Riley.

Although Ford committed suicide on March 2, three days after the attack on Riley, he has been a predominant figure in the ongoing investigation. Until now, however, authorities had referred to him publicly only as a "possible suspect."

According to the documents, investigators "concluded that (Ford) was highly likely involved in the conspiracy to kill the victim in the capacity of the mastermind ... for financial gains related to the business activities of Biofem."

Search warrant requests and supporting affidavits, more than 170 pages worth, detail many of the events surrounding the murder attempt and the subsequent evacuation of Ford's Woodbridge neighborhood. The contents focus on Ford and his relationship with an Anaheim surgeon, a female Biofem employee and alleged getaway driver Dino D'Saachs, a 56-year-old Altadena businessman. The documents also contain portions of the first conversations police had with Riley, which took place at the hospital shortly after a gunman clad in black shot him in the face as he got out of his parked car outside his business.

Authorities, who have pursued a financial motive from the outset, questioned Riley about the value of Biofem. Riley told police he estimated the value of his half of the company to be about $2 million. He said he and Ford were in the process of starting up a new medical business based on a breakthrough in their research, and that the value of the new business would "far exceed" the value of Biofem.

Riley also told police Ford called him at the hospital soon after D'Saachs had been arrested in connection with the shooting. Riley told Ford police had phone records showing Ford had talked with D'Saachs the morning of the attack. Ford admitted the calls took place, but insisted they talked only about medication for D'Saachs, and assured Riley he knew nothing of a murder plot.

D'Saachs was arrested after police traced to him a van seen leaving the area after the shooting. Though authorities believe there may have been as many as three individuals involved, including Ford, D'Saachs is the only one facing charges thus far. He has pleaded not guilty, and will appear at a felony arraignment on May 19 in Santa Ana. Police are still looking for the gunman.

During an interview, D'Saachs told police that about two weeks before the shooting, Ford told him he feared for his own safety because he had just taken out a $5 million key-man insurance policy on himself for Biofem. D'Saachs maintained he was in fact driving near the Biofem office just before the shooting, but only out of concern for Ford, according to the search warrant documents.

He told police he was stopped by a man dressed in black near Biofem and after a brief conversation agreed to give the man a ride to a business about two blocks away. That account differs from the events recounted by witnesses on the day of the shooting. Witnesses told police they saw a van, with its side door open, waiting near the scene of the shooting - the gunman jumped in and the van drove away.

Police also talked to a confidential informant identified in the documents as "Gus," who said he used to work at an auto shop owned by D'Saachs. While at the shop, Gus said he overheard a conversation between D'Saachs and another man saying they had to "take someone out."

According to the affidavits, Gus walked around the corner and saw what looked like a black handgun; he does not think D'Saachs or the other man, who is identified in the documents as Glen Morales of Altadena, knew he overheard the conversation.

Then one of D'Saachs' neighbors reported a vehicle identified as a yellow 1983 Cadillac owned by Glen Morales parked in front of the D'Saachs' home on the day of the attempted murder. The neighbor reported seeing what looked like someone hiding under a blanket inside the car. Officers later retained a search warrant for Morales' car. It is not clear what they found.

During a search of D'Saachs' home and businesses, authorities found a booklet on how to carry out a "hit" titled "Silencers from the Home Workshop," a copy of the title to Riley's home, pictures of Riley's office parking spot, and a fax copy of a letter from a Biofem corporate investor regarding the late payment of $1 million. During his initial interview at the hospital, Riley told police that Ford and he were the only people who received copies of the confidential letter and that he did not disclose the letter to D'Saachs or anyone else.

Based on the relationship between D'Saachs and Ford, the telephone calls made before the shooting and the letter found in D'Saachs' home, police requested search warrants for Ford's cars and home.

Inside Ford's home, police found, among other things, a $1 million life insurance policy in Ford's name, but never found the $5 million business policy mentioned by D'Saachs. Further, Biofem officials have stated Ford never had any such "key-man" policy on either Ford or Riley.

This discrepancy, one of many discovered throughout the bizarre investigation, remains unclarified. Ford killed himself the day after the police search and literally minutes after a lengthy meeting with his lawyer, where he learned police considered him a suspect in the botched hit. Police then evacuated around 250 residents from Ford's neighborhood so authorities could unearth a cache of illegal weapons, military-grade explosives, and several jars containing substances later determined to contain germs causing cholera and typhoid fever.

Authorities do not know whether Ford had used or planned to use the bacteria in his Biofem research, or whether the germs are relevant to speculation that Ford had been involved with biological weapons programs in South Africa. They also have declined to speculate publicly on why Ford had the buried weapons.

Authorities, who had been concentrating on Ford throughout the complex and painstaking evacuation, once again widened their probe to include others, including Dr. Jerry Nilsson, an Anaheim surgeon and longtime friend of Ford's. Though investigators refer to Nilsson as a "primary suspect" throughout the affidavits, subsequent searches of his house and motor home yielded nothing hazardous. Authorities have not arrested Nilsson, and have said Nilsson was cooperative during his interrogation.

Another figure mentioned throughout the affidavits is Valerie Kesler, a Biofem employee and owner of a late-model Pontiac Firebird that was searched days after the shooting. On March 1, the day before Ford's suicide, police received a telephone call from an anonymous informant who claimed to know Ford and Riley, as well as Kesler, who lives in Newport Beach. The informant told police that Ford and Kesler were lovers and that they regularly participated in sadomasochistic sex together and with others.

The informant also contended that Kesler had participated with Ford in giving drugs to unwitting persons who were participating in sexual acts with Kesler and Ford, and that Kesler had referred to the victims as "white chimpanzees" when talking with the informant. Authorities also determined that Kesler, in addition to her Biofem salary, received personal checks from Ford varying between $1,000 and $1,500 each between June and December.

The informant said Kesler had personal knowledge of the conspiracy to murder Pat Riley. The informant was also aware of the confidential letter from the corporate investor regarding the late payment of $1 million, and told police of the letter before it had ever been mentioned in court.

Since the release of the court documents last week, Irvine police have maintained that investigators have found no evidence that Ford and Kesler gave drugs to anyone without consent during sexual activity, or that any group sexual activities even took place. The affidavits simply state what an informant told police in the early stages of the investigation, said Lt. Sam Allevato.

Authorities also looked into complaints made by former women patients of Ford's. Investigators, however, say there is no particular pattern or similarity between symptoms suffered by the women, and cannot conclude the illnesses, which range from cancer to abdominal pain, were a result of Ford's care.