TV Chef Cooked Up Plot to Murder His Wife, Say Cops

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Police in Santa Monica, tipped off by one of the city’s homeless men, have arrested a former television cooking show host on suspicion of orchestrating a murder-for-hire scheme.

Juan-Carlos Cruz, 48, is the former host of two television shows on the Food Network, Calorie Commando and Weighing In. He had been a pastry chef at the tony Hotel Bel Air until losing 43 pounds on the Discovery Health Channel show Discovery Health Body Challenge, after which he shifted his focus to low-calorie cooking.

According to authorities, Cruz approached several homeless men—identified only as Big Dave, Little Dave and Shane—and asked them to kill his wife. Cruz allegedly offered one of them, Little Dave, a thousand dollars to cut his wife’s throat, and provided him with a disposable cell phone, a box cutter, a pocket watch and a pair of gloves. Cruz reportedly gave Little Dave one half of each of ten $100 bills, and showed him a picture of the other halves, which he said the homeless man would receive after the murder had taken place. Shortly thereafter, Little Dave contacted Shane and Big Dave, and they agreed to help Little Dave communicate with Cruz. When Big Dave was arrested on a loitering charge, however, he told police about the plot, and the cops got in touch with all three homeless men the next day.

The men, working with police, called Cruz on the disposable cell phone and asked him to meet them again. Big Dave wore a wire, and the meeting was secretly videotaped by police in the vicinity. At that meeting, Big Dave expressed his reluctance to kill Cruz’s wife in public, and Cruz then promised that he would give the men a security code to his apartment, so that they could lie in wait for the wife and strangle her when she arrived. Cruz also allegedly took the men to the apartment building to show them how to avoid the security cameras.

Santa Monica police began investigating Cruz on May 7; they arranged for the three homeless men to stay in a hotel room during the week-long investigation, in order to keep them out of sight and safe.

“They gave us two pizzas, a 12-pack of beer and a bottle of San Jose,” said Big Dave. “I love them.”

Cruz was arrested on Thursday at a dog park in the Cheviot Hills area of Los Angeles, and charged with solicitation to commit murder. He is being held on $5 million bail and will appear in court today,

 

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