Trial begins for mother and son charged with murder of missing millionaire

NEW YORK - As she laid out a path for the trial of a former Carson City woman and her son charged with murdering an 82-year-old widow so they could steal her home, a prosecutor told jurors the evidence would take them to several corners of the country.

''Their arrogance and greed overcame their common sense,'' said Assistant District Attorney Consuelo Fernandez on Monday during the first day of the trial. ''They left a trail of bread crumbs, so to speak, from California to Las Vegas, from Las Vegas to Florida, from Florida to New York and to Irene Silverman's home.''

In her opening statement, Fernandez said Sante Kimes, 65, and her son Kenneth Kimes, 24, used credit cards, signed documents and wrote checks using more than 30 aliases, some of them invented but others belonging to people who were linked to the Kimeses.

Sante Kimes was known as Sandy Chambers when she graduated from Carson High School in 1952. She had moved to Carson from Los Angeles in 1947, and she left soon after graduation to work in Sacramento. It was the beginning of a long journey that prosecutors claim led to crimes across the country.

The Kimeses would sometimes cultivate strangers they thought they could use later, Fernandez told the jury of eight women and four men. She added that Sante Kimes promised them jobs, money and, in at least three cases, trips to the Bahamas in return for favors.

The Kimeses' paper and electronic trail tracked over several states - along with information from some of the strangers - will help prove the pair schemed to get rid of Silverman and steal her home, Fernandez said.

''Irene Silverman is dead,'' Fernandez said. ''She is dead because these two people sitting in this courtroom killed her, murdered her.''

The Kimeses moved into a first-floor apartment in Silverman's six-story townhouse on the Upper East Side on June 14, 1998, paying $6,000 cash for a month's rent. Less than a month later, Fernandez said, Silverman vanished.

The Kimeses were jailed July 5, 1998, the last day Silverman was seen alive, on charges of using a bogus check to pay $14,000 for a Lincoln Town Car bought from a Utah dealer. It was another two days before police connected them to Silverman's disappearance.

The two are charged in an 84-count indictment with second-degree murder, conspiracy, robbery, forgery and other charges connected to the presumed death of Silverman, whose body has not been found.

State Supreme Court Justice Rena Uviller had told the jury that the murder case against the Kimeses was largely circumstantial, lacking witnesses, scientific evidence or even a body.

Fernandez reminded the jury of this, saying, ''Irene Silverman's body has never been found. There will be no hair, blood or DNA evidence.''

''But there will be overwhelming evidence that will prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt that they killed her out of simple, ordinary greed,'' said Fernandez. ''They wanted Irene Silverman's townhouse.''

Silverman's mansion on East 65th Street between Madison and Fifth avenues was worth at least $4 million. The former dancer had lived there with her late husband, Sam Silverman, a wealthy businessman.

One piece of evidence, Fernandez said, was a forged deed, recovered by police from the Kimeses, purporting to transfer ownership of Silverman's house to the Kimeses for $395,000.

The Kimeses also kept notebooks, Fernandez said. One contained a to-do list that suggests a suspicious interest in Silverman's home.

''Get her signature in some way. Check out all exits and entrances. Who works there? Who is Sam S? (a reference to Silverman's late husband),'' were some of the notes Fernandez cited from Sante Kimes's notebook.

Police also recovered a bag from Sante Kimes that contained $10,000 and several of Silverman's personal documents. Sante Kimes told police that the papers belonged to a friend but the cash was her own.

In the Lincoln, police found loaded 9-mm and .22-caliber pistols, brass knuckles, a knife, several wigs and masks, plastic handcuffs, $30,000 in cash, a stun gun, pepper spray and a pink liquid similar to a known date rape drug.

They also found cassettes of Silverman's telephone conversations, apparently from wiretaps, and they found equipment that would be used to tap telephone lines and record conversations.


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