Crime

Police announce arrest in Palm Desert cold case murder

Detectives: Palm Desert man killed by rival

PALM DESERT, Calif. - A Northern California man is awaiting trial on charges of murdering another man's romantic rival from Palm Desert, whose remains were identified more than two decades later through DNA, which was also used to link the accused killer-for-hire to the crime, the sheriff's department announced Wednesday.

Russell Huber, 59, of Oroville, is charged with murder and a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait in the killing of 41-year-old Clyde Gregory Hayward, whose remains were found in a streambed in Clark County, Nevada, in February 1993, but weren't positively identified until May 20, 2014, said Riverside County sheriff's Lt. Raymond Huskey.

Hayward went missing in July 1992. He was supposed to meet his girlfriend for a date but never showed up. His truck was found about two weeks later on Highway 95, 26 miles north of Blythe, with dried blood and two .380 shell casings found about 100 yards east of the vehicle, according to court documents.

Hayward's girlfriend told detectives she had turned down a marriage proposal from her employer, John Nichols, and suspected him of involvement in her boyfriend's disappearance, but investigators did not have evidence to warrant an arrest, according to Huskey.

A prosecutor's brief alleges that Nichols -- who died in 2001 -- hired a man named Peter Boncore to carry out the killing, and he, in turn, recruited Huber. The brief states that Boncore and Huber were friends, while Boncore and Nichols met in prison in the 1980s.

Nichols, known as "Octopus,'' had previous ties to murders-for-hire, including being suspected of orchestrating a still-unsolved 1981 triple murder in the Coachella Valley, according to court papers.

In that case, Cabazon Band of Mission Indians Tribal Leader Fred Alvarez was found shot to death at his Rancho Mirage home, along with friends Ralph Boger and Patricia Castro.

At the time, Nichols was the tribe's financial manager and was suspected of ordering the killing to keep Alvarez from exposing Nichols' alleged illegal activities, which some have surmised to include establishing weapons testing grounds on the reservation's land.

Nichols was never officially tied to the murders but was sentenced to four years in prison for solicitation of murder in an unrelated case. He allegedly met Boncore in prison while serving that term.   

Jimmy "James'' Hughes, a former security-official-turned-preacher, was charged in 2009 with the Rancho Mirage triple-killing, but prosecutors dropped the charges the following year, citing insufficient evidence.   

The prosecutor's brief alleges that after being rejected by Hayward's girlfriend, Nichols arranged a fake business meeting with Hayward under the guise of securing golf carts for a development project because Hayward previously worked for a golf cart distributor.

Hayward allegedly met with Boncore and Huber as part of that arrangement and was killed, prosecutors contend. Huber told investigators he and Boncore were in the desert, where they "had a meeting with a guy about golf carts on behalf of Nichols,'' the brief states.

Huber told law enforcement that they met at a diner and later went to Hayward's house, but Hayward was "alive and well'' when the meeting ended. Huber speculated that his DNA got into
Hayward's truck because he drove the truck from the diner to Hayward's house.

Following the positive identification of Hayward's body, DNA analysis was conducted on several discarded cigarette butts found near the victim's abandoned truck. DNA and fingerprint evidence allegedly linked the cigarettes to Huber, Huskey said.

Prosecutors have decided against seeking the death penalty for Huber, who was arrested in February in Oroville and is being held on $1 million bail. His next court date is an Oct. 11 trial-readiness conference at the Riverside Hall of Justice.


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