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THE 1981 ALVAREZ EXECUTIONS
WHY THE CASE AGAINST JIMMY HUGHES FAILED
by Virginia McCullough © 8/27/10

On the 29th anniversary of the Fred Alvarez triple executions, California Deputy Attorney General Michael Murphy asked for a dismissal against Jimmy Hughes, in the "interest of justice "citing Penal Code Section 1385 (California Penal Code Section 1385.) Murphy told Judge Wells that the case "went cold" multiple times since the 1981 killings and he recited a procedural history of the case.

Murphy then explained that in 2009 the Riverside County Sheriff's Department presented evidence that led the prosecutors to believe was sufficient to charge Hughes and the September 26, 2009 arrest followed.

In Judge Wells' courtroom Murphy elaborated on the reasons that led to the Attorney General's decision to dismiss the case. He said, "new information our office discovered materially changed our assessment of the nature and quality of the evidence, the legal issues implicated by the facts and the procedural history of the case." Following the arrest of Hughes, Murphy's office conducted its own investigation re-interviewing witnesses, reviewing files and, in so doing, uncovered new information that caused the prosecutors to lose "confidence in our ability to proceed with the prosecution of this case" in a court of law.

The Desert Sun reported on July 1, 2010 that the lead investigator on the case, John Powers said he believes he knows what information Murphy referred to but declined to discuss it. "It's still an open homicide case, and I can't discuss the evidence," Powers said after the hearing.

In Murphy's application for requisition to extradite Hughes from Florida dated October 8. 2009, he stated that "on August 29, 2009, a judge of the Riverside County Superior Court issued an arrest warrant for James George Hughes for the crimes of conspiracy to commit murder and murder." (Pen. Code 182 and 187).

On September 26, 2009 Jimmy Hughes was arrested in Miami-Dade County, Florida. On 18 December 2009 an amended complaint was filed providing for the possibility of the death penalty. Thereafter two hearings were held in California during which both the prosecution and the defense stipulated to continuances.  On July 1, 2010 all charges against Jimmy Hughes were dismissed by Assistant Attorney General Michael Murphy "in the interest of justice."

KESQ-TV reported on July 1, 2010 that " In the instant case (The Jimmy Hughes' case), not only was the case filed presumably consistently with policy and mission standards, but Deputy Attorney General Murphy indicated to Detective Powers, (at the time notice was being delivered to the Sheriff’s Department that the case was going to be dismissed), that there was more than ample evidence to file and prove this case, not just now but twenty five years ago, and said that because the case was not filed earlier the lack of due process requires a dismissal in the case."

The 14th Amendment of the Constitution guarantees every citizen the due process of law -- notice and an opportunity to be heard.  In a criminal case this notice to a citizen usually takes the form of service of a complaint to the defendant listing the charges against him.  The hearing is a trial that meets constitutional standards.

Some of the essential facts pertaining to the Jimmy Hughes case are as follows:

Jimmy Hughes was employed by the Cabazon Indian Casino and Bingo Palace, Inc. from February 1980 through February 1984.

On July 1, 1981 Joe Benitez discovered the bodies of Fred Alvarez, Patricia Castro and Ralph Boger.

On September 26, 1981 Jimmy Hughes' fingerprints were taken by the Riverside Sheriffs' Department and 28 years later that department sent Hughes' prints to the State of Florida to support California's extradition request. The reason behind Hughes' fingerprints being taken is unknown.

The current Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco, a "distant cousin" of Jimmy Hughes began working for the Riverside District Attorney's office in 1984. During 1996 to 2000 Pacheco served in the Califrnia Assembly and returned to the District Attorney's office in 2000. During the entire time suspect Jimmy Hughes' case was retained by the Riverside DA's office until the end of June 2009 when DA Pacheco, the defendant's cousin, declared his conflict of interest and turned the case over to the Attorney General's office.

In March 1984 Jimmy Hughes was banned from the Cabazon reservation following an attempted takeover of Cabazon Bingo, Inc.   Hughes, Gary Packham and John Patrick McGuire attempted to take over control of the Cabazon gaming operation from John Philip Nichols and John Paul Nichols, allegedly on behalf of G. Wayne Reeder.

Hughes remained an employee of Reeder from March of 1984 until approximately September 13, 1984 when Hughes, Peter Zokovsky and Reeder had a meeting. There was a confrontation and Hughes told Reeder "You've made deals behind my back. You are more about you[r] f_ _ing money than you do about people's lives. Don't you realize we're both in the same f _ _ ing boats. You know there are contracts on both of us. If I die so will you."

Hughes said he was referring to the contracts that John Philip Nichols had placed on their lives and G. Wayne Reeder considered Hughes' comments a threat on his life. This exchange resulted in a lawsuit by G. Wayne Reeder who requested an injunction prohibiting harassment by Jimmy Hughes. This lawsuit, Superior Court, County of Riverside, Case No. 45403, resulted in Jimmy Hughes going to the Riverside Sheriffs Department and detailing what had happened at the Cabazon reservation under John Philip Nichols.

In 1985 the Riverside District Attorney Grover Trask together with the Attorney General John Van De Kamp empanelled a grand jury sitting in Riverside County to hear the testimony of those who witnessed the activities of John Philip Nichols and his family on the Cabazon reservation.  Fred Alvarez's sister Linda Streeter testified and Jimmy Hughes was granted transactional immunity under Penal Code 1324.

In 1985 KNBC-TV's interviewer Patrick Healy spoke with Jimmy Hughes who said that he had been the bagman for the Alvarez murders which had been a government covert assassination. John Philip Nichols had given Hughes $25,000 and told Hughes to give it to a hit man on a tram near Palm Springs.

Surprisingly John Philip Nichols was arrested and convicted for a separate solicitation of murder plot involving individuals who were allegedly supplying drugs to Nichols' girlfriend. Law enforcement authorities could never connect this plot to the Alvarez executions. John Philip Nichols served one and a half years in jail for the solicitation plot and allegedly lost his position as Chairman of the Cabazon Business Committee.

Shortly after his testimony before the Grand Jury, Jimmy Hughes left the United States. He married and eventually settled in Honduras where he became the spiritual adviser to the former first lady of Honduras Aquas Maduro.

When Hughes was arrested in November 2009, KNBC-TV's Patrick Healy interviewed Riverside Deputy Sheriff John Powers and Powers' co-investigator Rachel Begley.  Patrick Healy said, "Neither would discuss the evidence uncovered but they believe Hughes got his immunity under false pretenses." Begley stated, "And the immunity was contingent on if his story checked out."

In an Associated Press article entitled "Arrest in 1981 tribal murders revives old mystery" Powers said, "If it was the story Jimmy gave back in 1985, we wouldn't be charging him with murder," Powers said. "It is much more than what he said.

"When Jimmy Hughes was arrested, the Alvarez assassinations were twenty-nine years old.

In 2010 it was revealed to the public through a California Public Records Act request, that the grand jury transcripts of 1985 are lost or misplaced, thus  severely limiting Jimmy Hughes right to defend himself. Click.

A case can be so old that due process of law under the 14th Amendment is denied because the defendant cannot defend himself and have a fair hearing .  Factors which deny a defendant due process caused by the passage of  time include:

1. Memories are impaired;
2. Evidence is lost;
3. Physical evidence is destroyed.  Note that the Alvarez' house where the killings took place leveled to the ground;
4. Evidence is impaired because:
     a) The chain of custody cannot be proved;
     b) DNA, blood or other samples are tainted;
     c) Bullets and other physical evidence are lost;
5. The defense is unable to claim that third parties are liable for the crime because they cannot be investigated as thoroughly as it could have been possible at the time the crime was committed.

One other issue raised by Rachel Begley and entered into the court record on July 1, 2010 under Marsy's Law was the alleged confession attributed to Jimmy Hughes.  This Hughes interview appeared in many different sources including the July 6, 2003 piece in the newspaper Vertice. (Click: http://www.elsalvador.com/vertice/2003/060703/cronica.html) or the one cited by Begley which was from the Honduran newspaper La Prensa, written by Jessica Figueroa, Translation by Mario Andrade, July 6, 2003. The interviewer Mauricio Vasquez Acosta talked to Jimmy Hughes about his training for Delta Forces during the 1973 war in Vietnam. Hughes said that for six years he was trained with specialties in plastic explosives and sharp shooting. Hughes said that at 23 years of age he went to work for the CIA in secret missions in Asia, Europe and South America. Hughes said that in 1984 he left the Army to reside in California.  There are minor variations in the translations but the essential facts remain the same.

Many of the dates and ages set forth in the Vertice story are questionable to those familiar with Jimmy Hughes history at the Cabazons.  First, however, the Vertice story, in the next seven paragraphs, details who Jimmy Hughes is now.   It heralds his ministerial works as the founder of the Door of Hope and President of Free the Oppressed Ministries and advertising his free speeches at upcoming Fair International.

Then the Vertice story focuses on Hughes' activities at the Cabazon Reservation.  It states that Jimmy Hughes said that he met "The Padrino" who he identified as Dr. Nichols, head of the Mafia. Hughes, now a minister and member of the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International (FGBMFI), speaks of traveling all over the United States breaking legs, arms and heads with baseball bats and assassinating people for five to fifty thousand dollars.

Finally, the Vertice story about Hughes gets to the killings that Begley said constituted Jimmy Hughes' alleged confession that he killed Alvarez, Boger and Castro in 1981.  Here is what Hughes said about this experience in his life:

One never imagined that it had opened the doors to him to the death. But, within the mansion, there were other five people who were drinking and inhaling cocaine. Pense I ': ' I must kill to this one by 30 thousands, but the other five I do not know. To the others I did not see them as important people and until I thought that it also did a favor to the society eliminating them. I said myself: 'Good, the other five go away free in contracted'.

The night began to fall and when I removed to my weapon nobody realized, because were drugged, alcoholizados and speaking trivialities. There empece ': ' Bum, bum, bum... '.

[Please note that the above quotation is a computer translation which may or may not be completely accurate.]

Who was Jimmy Hughes talking about when he recited this tale? Was Hughes talking about three people laying on couches and a chair in the backyard of a decrepit home in the desert of Rancho Mirage? The bodies found in the Alvarez back yard did not have alcohol or cocaine in their systems. The home occupied by Fred Alvarez was not a mansion and there were only three bodies found in the Alvarez home...not five as Hughes describes here.  The alleged confession does not match the facts of the Alvarez executions in very pertinent details.

The murder of five people as stated by Hughes, was never prosecuted.  Hughes has not identified the victims, leaving people to their own speculation.  What killings on July 1, 1981 could have possibly fit the description offered by Jimmy Hughes.

Perhaps it could have been the infamous Wonderland murders that also occurred July 1, 1981. Wikipedia describes these killings below:

In the early morning hours of July 1, 1981, two days after the robbery, the house at 8763 Wonderland Ave. was entered. Miller, DeVerell, and Launius were present, along with Susan Launius (Ronald's wife) and Barbara Richardson (Lind's girlfriend). All five were bludgeoned repeatedly with striated steel pipes. Susan Launius survived with serious injuries, but the other four were killed. John Holmes was present at the site of the murder, as evidenced by his finger prints, but it is unknown whether he participated in any of the killings.

8763 Wonderland Avenue was not a mansion but a small split level home on a narrow country road.  The neighborhood was just four blocks from Governor Jerry Brown's home.

Porn king John Holmes and Adel Gharib Nasrallah aka Eddie Nash both came under suspicion for the murders. Neither man was convicted and Holmes died six years later on March 13, 1988 of AIDS at the VA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

The victims were associates of Eddie Nash who were apparently murdered in retaliation for a robbery some days earlier of heroin, cocaine, jewels and cash belonging to Nash.

Twenty years later on May 19, 2000 Eddie Nash was arrested following a four-year investigation by the FBI, IRS, California Attorney General's office and the Los Angeles Police Department's organized crime and vice division. Pressured by these joint agencies, Nash pled guilty to RICO charges and money laundering, but refused to confess to the Wonderland murders.

Retired LAPD Det. Tom Lange, later an investigator of the O.J. Simpson case, who spent 20 years involved in the Wonderland case , said he was frustrated that Nash faced only a total of 37 months.

But Lange said prosecutors were hampered by stale evidence, missing or dead witnesses and the fact that "there was never any evidence he was at the [murder] scene."

The Wonderland murders are another case too old to prosecute in accordance with due process.

There a number of details that tend to indicate Jimmy Hughes was not involved in the Wonderland murders.  For example, Hughes aid in his interview that he shot five people, not that he beat them senseless with a pipe as was done to the Wonderland victims.

The dates specified in the Vertice article are not supported by the known history of Jimmy Hughes at the Cabazon reservation.  If these contradictions were pointed out to a jury, it would certainly raise reasonable doubt.

In 2008 Rachel Begley confronted Jimmy Hughes at a Full Gospel Men's Fellowship International church meeting in Fresno and secretly recorded him.  This recording was done without Hughes' knowledge or consent.  Begley said she was the daughter of Ralph Boger.  On tape, Hughes said he did not want to talk about his past.

Nevertheless Hughes confided, "Your parents got killed in a Mafia hit.  That's life. That's what happened."

Hughes added: "I don't care about my past. My past is my past. It's none of your business. It's nobody's business. I don't care who died. I don't care who got killed. I was trained in the military. I killed people all over the world, right or wrong, because the government ordered me to your dad and I were friends. He touched somebody -- they gave an order and that's what happened to him. It's a lot bigger than the murder of this guy or the murder of that guy. It's big -- you're talking political people --"

Hughes was unaware that Rachel had her camcorder turned on and everything he said was recorded.  

It is doubtful that this recording could have been introduced into evidence because Hughes did not consent to be recorded,  Had the case gone to trial, he would have tried to exclude it from evidence based on his  reasonable expectation of privacy regarding his conversation with Begley. 

Nonetheless, Detective John Powers said that it was a crucial piece of evidence. Many newspapers and television stations reported on this tape recording and, prior to the arrest of Jimmy Hughes, allowed his voice to be played on newscasts.

For all of the reasons cited in this article, it seems there was a basis for Deputy Attorney General Michael Murphy to dismiss the case against Hughes "in the interest of justice".

Virginia McCullough © 8/27/10

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