Nuzzio Begaren Guilty of Murder for Hiring Gang Members to Bump Off His Wife in 1998
A 52-year-old man who orchestrated a hit on his wife, a state corrections officer, alongside an Anaheim road in 1998 was found guilty of murder and conspiracy last week.
Nuzzio Begaren could get 25 years to life in state prison as his scheduled Oct. 4 sentencing.
Begaren had bought a $1 million life insurance policy on Elizabeth Wheat Begaren within days of marrying her but begged off getting insurance for his own life. Then, after moving in with her and a daughter from a previous marriage in Lancaster, Nuzzio Begaren began dating a waitress at a nearby restaurant and telling her he was unhappily married. He would go on to recruit gang members to kill Elizabeth Begaren, a corrections officer in the prison system's internal affairs division.
On Jan. 17, 1998, Begaren, his wife and his 10-year-old daughter went to a Macy's in Burbank, where he encouraged Elizabeth to carry $5,000 in cash in her purse. But the purpose was not to have money to burn shopping but so that it would appear more credible when she was robbed (and her killers were paid) before the slaying.
Guillermo Espinoza and Jose Luis Sandoval followed the Begaren family's Kia Sportage in a 1985 Buick Regal and, around 11 p.m. off the 91 freeway in Anaheim, the Kia was forced off the road by the Buick. As Nuzzio Begaren huddled with his daughter in the back of the car, Elizabeth tried to run from the vehicle but was shot in the face and chest and died. The father and daughter were unharmed.
Begaren would go on to collect most of that life insurance money. But investigators found a sheet of paper torn in four pieces that had the Buick's license plate number and Begaren's fingerprint. The license plate belonged to a car registered to Sandoval. Espinoza is now a fugitive.
The defense tried to argue that gang members who testified against Begaren were not credible.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Orange County, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.