The Murder of Bonnie Hood and Bruce Beauchamps (Crime Documentary)
At 3 a.m. on Aug. 19, 1990, an intruder entered Bonnie's room and fired at the two people in her bed. She was killed, and her employee, Rudy Manuel, was wounded in the head. Although she had several hundred dollars in her purse and expensive jewelry in the room, police said nothing was missing.
According to Whitney, the person who killed Bonnie was Beauchamp, then a construction foreman for Jim's company. Beauchamp, Whitney told jurors, was paid by Jim to kill Bonnie, in part for a $500,000 insurance policy on her life. (Jim was called to the witness stand during Beauchamp's trial and denied any role in his wife's slaying.)
Jim's defense attorney, Philip C. Bourdette, countered that his client had no reason to kill his wife.
""I can spend a lot of time here like Mr. Whitney did going through all this stuff,"" Bourdette said. ""But let the evidence tell you, let the witnesses show you, that all he has here is gossip, rumor, suspicion. This is a great case for the National Enquirer. It's not a case for court.""
Not surprisingly, the sensational nature of the case extends well beyond the polished, wooden banister separating the judge, jury, lawyers, and defendant from the courtroom's spectator section.
At least one book is in the works, and Court TV, a cable network that airs controversial trials, taped the first two weeks of the proceedings. TriStar Pictures has begun work on a movie of the week.
But sensational or not, the killing of Bonnie Hood and the shooting of Beauchamp, Bourdette said, ""is a tragedy. It's a tragedy for Mr. Hood, in August of 1990, whose wife was violently murdered. He lost his wife of 19 years.""
The story of a modern, unusual marriage of two of Newport Beach's ""beautiful people"" unfolds each day in a very traditional, 1920s courthouse.
The bailiff's morning invocation calls attention to the flag, ""the symbol of freedom and justice."" The rear wall of the courtroom is lined with portraits of 19th-Century judges, and the high ceiling is covered with gilded artwork.
The five-woman, seven-man jury is racially and ethnically mixed. Whitney said he tried to select intelligent, working-class jurors who wouldn't be ""overwhelmed"" by Hood's glitzy lifestyle and good looks.
Although Bonnie's murder is an intricate part of the story presented to the jury, that will not be the case they will decide.
Beauchamp was acquitted of that charge on March 29, 1991, in part because jurors said they did not believe the testimony of Manuel, who retracted statements to police that he and Bonnie were having an affair. Tulare County prosecutors have since said they have long had their suspicions about Jim. They are monitoring this trial but have never charged him.
What the San Bernardino jurors must decide is why and how Jim pumped seven slugs from his Glock 9-m.m. pistol into Beauchamp on March 2, 1992, almost a year after Beauchamp was acquitted.