Police say weapons cache was old, rusting; Biofem office also searched
IRVINE, Calif. – A rusting cache of 17 illegal weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition were displayed by police on Tuesday – part of an arsenal owned by a doctor who killed himself after his business partner was attacked by a gunman.
The automatic and semiautomatic weapons, including four Uzi-style guns, an M-16 rifle and a 1928 Thompson submachine gun, had been buried in Dr. Larry Ford’s back yard for three to five years, Lt. Sam Allevato said.
Ford also had 40 to 50 lega shotguns and rifles in his home. They were turned over to family members, Allevato disclosed.
Police evacuated the neighborhood while they excavated Ford’s yard. Residents were allowed to return Saturday night. None of the guns found in Ford’s house or yard was the small-caliber handgun used to shoot and wound the doctor’s business partner.
”We’re still looking for the weapon used by the gunman or the gunman himself,” Allevato said at a news conference Tuesday.
Ford, an obstetrician and former cancer researcher, committed suicide on March 2, a day after officers searched his home in connection with the Feb. 28 shooting of James Patrick Riley. Ford wasn’t the gunman because he was in the headquarters of Biofem Inc. at the time of the shooting, investigators have said.
The Irvine headquarters of the biochemical firm also was searched on Monday by FBI agents, who took away undisclosed ”material” for analysis, Allevato said.
”Some suspicious substances were removed from the office,” said Jim Donckels, supervisor of the FBI’s Santa Ana office. ”We’re not talking about chemicals … but they (the materials) could be hazardous.” He declined to elaborate.
The agency also was analyzing 20 to 30 hand-labeled jars of liquid, some in baby food jars, found last week in a refrigerator in Ford’s garage.
”The FBI said it would be a reckless event to speculate until they determine what’s in there,” Allevato said.
Also Monday, officers in bulky white protective suits took away chemicals and research equipment from a 10-by-15-foot storage shed blocks from Ford’s upscale Orange County neighborhood.
The facility, rented by Ford and Biofem, contained sealed commercial chemicals such as potassium cyanide and hydrochloric acid that are commonly used in biochemical research, Allevato said.
The expanding investigation has only added to questions surrounding the bizarre case.
Riley and Ford hoped to make a fortune by marketing a vaginal suppository to prevent sexual diseases. KCBS-TV reported Tuesday that it was Ford who made the 911 call after Riley was shot in the face by a masked gunman in Biofem’s parking lot.
Ford got a call from Riley’s cellular telephone and raced downstairs, the station said.
”It looked to me as if color drained from his face … it just looked like he went pale,” said Howard Ducker, who was trying to help Riley.
Ford pressed a towel to his partner’s face and stayed with him until paramedics arrived, Ducker told the station.
Allevato said investigators are focusing on ”financial gain” as a possible motive.
But Ford’s lawyer said Tuesday his late client didn’t stand to gain by Riley’s killing because the Biofem executive’s share of the business would revert to his wife.
”There’s nothing in the investigation that I’ve done that would suggest that there would be any financial motive that Dr. Ford had,” Ford attorney Stephen Klarich said.
Authorities have charged the alleged getaway driver with conspiracy to commit murder. But Dino D’Saachs, who was Ford’s longtime friend and apparently his tax accountant, has refused to cooperate with investigators, Allevato said.
Thousands of rounds of ammunition were found in 24 metal boxes that were hidden under a false floor in Ford’s home. The illegal machine guns and rifles, many of them rusted and corroded, were in 5-foot-long cylinders buried under a removable concrete slab in his yard.
The weapons came from all over the world, including England, Belgium and Germany.
The cylinders also contained some 50 rounds of incendiary ammunition and 2 pounds of C-4 military-style plastic explosives with two detonators.
H. Bryan Card, an attorney representing the family, said Ford’s wife knew that there were ”green canisters” hidden under a false floor and the PVC cylinders in the back yard. Her husband had said those in the back yard contained guns, the attorney said.
”He collected weapons,” Card said. ”He had a lot of guns. He had muskets, he had M-1s, hunting rifles. He’s a big game hunter. His house is filled with buffalo heads, elephant’s feet. He went on a lot of safaris.”
Card described Ford as law-abiding and a deeply religious Mormon.
”His big vice was he used to sneak diet Coke in the garage,” the attorney said. Some Mormons believe it is wrong to drink any caffeinated beverage, although others limit the ban to coffee and tea.
AP Staff Writer Robert Jablon contributed to this report.