LOS ANGELES - Kenneth Kimes, part of a mother-son team convicted of killing a wealthy New York socialite, pleaded guilty Tuesday to the murder of a Los Angeles businessman. Prosecutors said he also agreed to testify against his 64-year-old mother.
The surprise plea came in a brief court session at which Kenneth Kimes calmly admitted murdering David Kazdin, 63, whose body was found in a trash bin near the Los Angeles International Airport.
Kazdin's family was in the courtroom as the plea was announced.
"We're happy to know he will be in jail for life," Linda Kazdin, 37, said outside court.
By entering into the plea, Kimes, 28, escapes a possible death penalty and will receive a sentence of life in prison without parole. He won't be sentenced until his mother, Sante Kimes, is tried in the murder of Kazdin.
Sante Kimes was known as Sandy Chambers when she graduated from Carson High School in 1952. She and her family lived at the corner of Division and Long streets. Kimes was adopted by Carson City residents Ed and Mary Chambers in 1947, after moving from Los Angeles.
Deputy District Attorney Eleanor Hunter said Kenneth Kimes was interviewed by prosecutors for three days last August but the transcript of his interview will be sealed.
She said he admitted going to Kazdin's home on March 13, 1998. According to a premeditated plan hatched with his mother, Kimes went inside and shot the man, the prosecutor said.
"Did you shoot the victim?" Hunter asked Kimes on Tuesday in court.
"Yes," Kimes said calmly. He also admitted disposing of the body later in order to conceal a fraud committed on the businessman.
Sante Kimes and her son were tried and convicted in 2000 in the state of New York for murdering Irene Silverman, a wealthy 82-year-old widow whose body has never been found, and conspiring to steal her $7 million Manhattan townhouse and other possessions.
Sante Kimes was sentenced to 120 years in prison, while her son received a 125-year prison sentence.
A Los Angeles County grand jury indicted the Kimeses in May 2002 on charges of murdering Kazdin. Both pleaded innocent to one count each of murder, along with the special circumstances of murder for financial gain and murder of a witness.
Prosecutors believe the Kimeses killed Kazdin after he learned they had forged his name to obtain a $200,000 loan.
Sante Kimes made a brief court appearance in a wheelchair Tuesday with her new lawyer, Charles A. Maple. There was no mention of her son's plea as a judge set a status hearing in her case for Dec. 10.
Outside of court, Maple was asked if his client was surprised by her son's plea.
"It was not an unexpected thing," he said, declining further comment.
Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy Powell, who accepted the plea of Kenneth Kimes, said she assumed the trial date of Jan. 13 now set for Sante Kimes would be delayed.
The mother and son have been the topic of TV programs and articles in the national media.