Honeymoon With A Killer

Honeymoon With A Killer

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Honeymoon With A Killer by Don Lasseter, Ronald E. Bowers

Everything She Wanted. . .

Rebecca Salcedo had an easy smile, a sexy body, and strong appetites--she wanted the world. Bruce Cleland, she decided, would buy it for her. The shy engineer quickly fell victim to her charms, getting her whatever she wanted. A new car. A boat. A house. But he wasn't Rebecca's only admirer. . . 

She Got. . .

Even after Rebecca manipulated Bruce into marrying her, hoping to divorce him and take him for everything he had, she occupied herself with a series of lovers. Male strippers, women. . . they all spent time in Rebecca's bed. But when she learned that a divorce would only get her a few pennies, she knew she had to find another way to secure Bruce's fortune. 

Even Murder. . .

Enlisting two family members as killers-for-hire, Rebecca set in motion her solution to the problem. While she watched, the first bullet hit Bruce in the face. Three more would follow. But while Rebecca kept the blood off her hands, she could not conceal evidence that led straight to her, culminating in a trial that would shock a community. 

With 16 pages of shocking photos

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786019298
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 11/01/2009
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 571,247
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Ronald E. Bowers was a 40-year Senior Prosecutor for the Los Angeles County DA's Office, where he participated in countless high profile murder trials. He has authored two books employed throughout the country for training prosecutors how to improve jury presentations by using visual aids. His extensive legal experience combined with graphics communication expertise has made him a popular guest lecturer here and in Japan. A graduate of the USC Law School, he resides in southern California.

Don Lasseter has authored a dozen true crime books, more than fifty magazine articles, and a book about WWII airmen downed in France and rescued by the Resistance. His best seller is Die For Me (Pinnacle, 2000) a chronicle of crimes by California serial killer Charles Ng. Lasseter’s television appearances include several talk shows and crime documentaries on A&E's  “American Justice and Biography,” Court TV, the Discovery Channel, and CSPAN’s Book TV. He is a resident of Orange County, California.

Read an Excerpt


Gunshots in the Night

Virginia Selva, a weary middle-aged teacher's aide, finally dropped off to sleep on a muggy, hot Friday night late in July. It had been a tough day at Lorena Street Elementary School, just a few blocks away, where she held the job title of para-educator. Most of the seven hundred — plus kids in attendance — kindergartners through fifth graders — spoke Spanish, putting Virginia in constant demand as an interpreter. Behavior problems consumed the rest of her time and patience. Stressed out from a particularly difficult Friday, she looked forward to a relaxing weekend, but she had tossed and turned after going to bed.

Cacophonous high-speed traffic on the I-5/Santa Ana Freeway — not more than eighty paces north of Virginia's front door — didn't help. Nothing buffered the rumbling din from traffic speeding in both directions on ten lanes. The steady roar flowed over a cinder block fence, crossed an open triangular field, bridged Beswick Street, and engulfed the line of homes, including Selva's two-story house. Trucks, motorcycles, and countless cars heading to or from downtown Los Angeles never ceased, especially on Friday nights in midsummer. Even double-paned windows in the upper-floor bedroom, overlooking the street below, could barely mute the constant waves of noise.

For the most part, Virginia had learned to ignore droning engines and the deafening hum of tire traction on pavement. An hour before midnight, it all faded away for her with blessed sleep. Her respite didn't last long, though.

A little after 1:00 A.M., a sharp blast snapped her into full consciousness and sent her scrambling to the window. It sounded much more distinct than a backfiring motor, and the startled woman was convinced she had heard a gunshot. Fear mixed with curiosity gripped her when she heard shrill, angry, arguing voices. "At first, I thought it was next door," Selva later stated. "You know, that something had happened there with the neighbor girls and their boyfriends."

From her view of the outside scene, Virginia could easily make out the intersection where Beswick abutted Concord Street, two doors to the west. The street layout forced cars and trucks passing her house in the direction of Concord to halt at a boulevard stop sign, and either turn right or left. A right turn would funnel vehicles to an on-ramp and the eastbound freeway. Or they could turn left and drive south down the gentle slope of Concord through quiet residential blocks.

As Virginia gazed through streetlamp phosphorescence, trying to see what had happened, she spotted a dark-clad figure striding toward her house, away from an SUV stalled at the boulevard stop sign, with the headlights still on. The driver's door stood wide open. In his right hand, thrust forward, the man gripped a gun. As he repeatedly pulled the trigger, the weapon spit flashes of yellow-white lightning from the muzzle. At least four — maybe five — more shots pierced the night. He took a few steps backward, wheeled, broke into a gallop, raced toward Concord Street, and vanished after turning the corner and heading downhill, toward Garnet Street.

Virginia snatched her glasses from a nightstand, flew from the bedroom, and ran downstairs to a bay window. From there, her eyes zeroed in on a troubling sight — the motionless figure of a woman lying on the pavement behind the SUV's rear wheel, on the driver's side.

At that moment, a pickup truck pulled to a stop several yards behind the SUV and the prone figure. Within seconds, a taxi rounded the corner from Concord and also braked to a halt. Almost simultaneously, Virginia saw a black-and-white police cruiser arrive. Two officers jumped out. One conferred with the pickup and taxi drivers, while the other rushed toward the sidewalk next door and knelt next to something. Straining to see what had drawn the officer's attention, Virginia realized that a man lay facedown on the driveway concrete apron.

She continued to observe as a fire truck joined the other vehicles on Beswick, then an ambulance, and more police cars. Red and yellow lights flashed, casting distorted, eerie shadows of people darting to and fro on the scene. Another cop stretched yellow plastic crime-scene tape around the SUV and blocked off the adjacent driveway. Personnel in uniforms and medical garb used flashlights as they performed endless tasks.

Virginia had not turned on interior lights, which might have signaled her presence. No one knocked at her door. Eventually she went back to bed.

Because emergency vehicles arrived within moments of the incident, Virginia did not call 911. But another nearby resident, twenty-five-year-old Guadalupe "Lupe" Hernandez, who heard and saw the events from a different angle, did make the call.

As soon as an answer came, she said, "Hi. Uh, there was just some shooting outside my house, and now there's a car parked. It's just parked. I think they were shooting at the car, and it's not moving at all. The lights are on and no one is moving from there."

The 911 officer asked, "How long ago was this shooting?"

"Just like a minute ago. Like a couple of seconds."

"How many shots did you hear?"

"Ah, it was a lot." Breaking into her native Spanish language, she gasped, "Como unos cinco verdad?" then reverted to English. "Like five. I heard yelling, and, uh, then I saw somebody running down ..."

"Did you see anyone?"

"I saw somebody running — it was one guy dressed in black."

"Was he white, Hispanic, black, Asian?"

"I couldn't see. I, uh, I'm [looking] from my bedroom window."

"The person was a male, wearing all dark colors? Did you see what direction he was running?"

"He was running — well, I'm located on Concord and Garnet, and he was running down the hill off of Beswick and Concord, he ran down the hill — the shooting was at Beswick and Concord." After the 911 officer repeated this for confirmation, Lupe continued to speak. "And then I heard a car, but didn't see if he got in the car. I heard it speeding off. The [other] car is still up there, and no one is moving in it."

"What color is it?"

"It's like a truck, Es como una troca ... dark, like a minivan or a four-door truck." She did her best to describe an SUV, but couldn't come up with the exact words.

"And where is that minivan parked?"

"It's at the stop sign, like going into the [freeway] entrance, the I-5 south, and it's at the stop at Concord and Beswick."

"Okay, great, and the lights are on, you said?"

"Yeah, they are on."

"Do you see anybody sitting there?"

"I'm too far away to see that."

"Okay, great. Thanks for calling."

"Thank you."

Lupe Hernandez watched the buzz of activity for a while and finally went to bed.

News coverage in the next few days revealed to both Virginia and Lupe the identities of the two figures Virginia Selva had seen, a woman lying on the pavement and a man sprawled facedown on the driveway apron. They were Rebecca and Bruce Cleland.

The couple had taken their wedding vows in a magnificent Catholic church, and reveled at a country club reception, only six months and eight days before that hot summer night.

Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) detective Tom Herman would call it the most tangled, engrossing case he ever investigated during his eleven years with the homicide team.


She Definitely Had a Way With Men

Rebecca "Becky" Salcedo's friends described her as beautiful, fun, sexy, outrageous, generous, and affectionate. Her personality acted as a magnet not only to a long parade of men, but also to numerous women. "She knows how to make you feel special," said insiders who socialized with Rebecca. Some, though, saw darker aspects in this complex woman. Words such as "deceitful" and "conniving" crept into conversations about her. She seemed to have magic powers for getting anything she wanted, especially from guys she dated. And she wanted a lot.

For Rebecca, life with a troubled mother, two older sisters, and a cowardly father had commenced in murky circumstances.

In a squalid suburb of Tijuana, Mexico, just across California's southern border, fifteen-year-old Lucy Quezada cowered on the floor of a shack. While hippies del norte frolicked through summers of love and flower power during those mid 1960s, Lucy's world consisted of an ongoing struggle for survival.

Screams echoed from the bedroom of Lucy's unkempt hovel, built of materials carted from scrap heaps. No one heard her or came to help. She fought her attacker with nothing more than thin, flailing arms, fingernails, and powerless kicking. No one interceded to prevent him from repeatedly raping young Lucy.

A few weeks later, she experienced a different kind of pain. Abdominal queasiness signaled pregnancy, and Lucy finally told her family that she had been violated. A quick, forced marriage to the rapist followed. The baby, named Yvonne (pseudonym), came later that year. While the infant still wore diapers, Lucy and her husband gathered their meager belongings, bundled up little Yvonne, and migrated to East Los Angeles.

Unwilling to settle for poverty, Lucy worked full-time and attended school at night to become a nurse's aide. Two years later, she gave birth to a second child and named her Dolores (pseudonym). One more baby arrived on August 15, 1969, the third and final daughter, Rebecca. Still harboring bitterness against her husband, who had initially impregnated her through rape, Lucy chose to endow all of her daughters with her maiden name, Quezada.

The irresponsible father couldn't handle family burdens. Bound by a marriage he hadn't wanted, struggling with a meager income while trying to feed a wife and three children, he buckled under the pressure and abandoned them. According to Rebecca's friends, word eventually drifted back to Lucy that he had died.

Another member of Lucy's family, her brother Arturo, had also settled in Boyle Heights. His decrepit casa on Fresno Street, less than a mile from the future site of a shooting at the corner of Beswick and Concord, could barely contain his brood — four daughters and two sons. Rebecca interacted well with Uncle Arturo and most of her cousins, even though Arturo drank heavily and lusted after every woman in sight. His wife had caught him too many times, and had moved to another county. Rebecca bonded primarily with the handsome, gregarious younger boy, Alvaro, known as "Al," and easily worked her charms on the youth, four years her junior. But his brother Jose, three years older than Rebecca, kept his distance. Going by the nickname "Joe," he associated with a tougher crowd.

After the departure of Lucy's cobarde husband, she struggled to support her trio of daughters. Still relatively young and attractive, Lucy set out to find a husband. Pedro Salcedo filled the bill. He even adopted the kids and gave them his surname.

Pedro found a modest rental house in Maywood, an industrial community four miles southeast of Boyle Heights. Predominantly Hispanic citizens and immigrants populated the residential neighborhoods, where most structures, painted in pastels of blue and pink, or earth tones, featured chain-link fences and security grilles on windows.

Lucy worked regularly in a doctor's office. Another member of the medical staff, Patricia Medina, befriended her, and heard all about the woman's troubles. Sometimes Pedro would bring the three daughters when he came to pick up Lucy, and Medina formed a friendship with young Rebecca. As she watched the child grow into her early teens, Medina was impressed when Rebecca would occasionally show up during one of her mother's illnesses and substitute for her, performing the job like an adult.

Painful memories, stress, and damage to her psyche drove Lucy into deep depression. The ready availability of comforting drugs at her workplace proved too tempting, and she leaned heavily on them for escape. At home she sought seclusion in a darkened bedroom and spent nearly all of her time in bed. Lucy's daughters, especially Dolores, took care of the domestic chores.

Among the girls' acquaintances, one later said, "I always felt like Dolores, the middle sister, was Pedro's wife. She cooked for him, did his laundry, housekeeping, did everything for him that a woman should do, except, I guess, the physical part. Their mother, Lucy, was there for that, but nothing else. She was always ill or something, so I guess Dolores felt obligated to take care of her stepfather."

Under these circumstances, siblings sometimes unify in their struggle against the oppressive adult world. Yvonne, Dolores, and Rebecca took the opposite tack. Chaos reigned in the house. According to a couple of Rebecca's friends, "There was a lot of yelling in the family. The sisters didn't get along with each other. How could they be like that? Always bickering, always competing to see who was better than the others. They were terrible. Pedro didn't know how to talk to you, so he would just yell. Rebecca didn't care too much for him. She was always intimidated by him. I think he made decent money in some kind of maintenance work or something like that."

By the time Rebecca reached the age of thirteen, she had developed the shapely figure of an adult, and used the knowledge of how to showcase it to her advantage. She enjoyed stares from men, and encouraged them with low necklines and short skirts. Her attendance and work in school took a backseat to social activities. Low achievement in junior high required her to do corrective makeup work in the summer of 1983. Another student at the Monterey Continuation School, Bertha Araiza, age fifteen, noticed Rebecca.

Bertha, a teen Venus, with a dazzling smile, mirthful crescent-shaped brown eyes, and a sensual physique envied by women and ogled by men, had also allowed her high-school grades to slip. Today anyone meeting Bertha would immediately wonder why she had ever needed to attend a remedial school, in view of her obvious intelligence, articulate speech patterns, and upscale social skills. She later explained, "I had fallen into a pattern of getting a little crazy, hanging around with the wrong people, and started failing my classes."

Recalling it, Bertha said, "I saw Rebecca there. She was thirteen and I wondered what the heck she was doing in continuation school already. I found out she was taking a clerical and typing class so she could go to work with her mother in a medical office."

An enduring friendship between the girls came about by happenstance. As Bertha waited for a bus one morning, she saw someone waving to her from a car. Said Bertha, "Rebecca was in her mom's car, with her boyfriend driving it. She made him pull over and flagged me to see if I wanted a ride. I had seen her at school, so I accepted. From then on, she clung to me like I was her sister or something. She had a terrible relationship with her two real sisters. Sometimes she even treated me like her mother, and would listen to me. I think it was partly because I always had a good head on my shoulders and always knew what was right, and tried to do the right thing."

Rebecca's proclivity for getting whatever she wanted from men allowed her to avoid the drudgery of a full-time job, and her apathy toward formal education led to dropping out. She failed to even complete the summer courses at the continuation school, and she never bothered to enroll in high school.

Even though Bertha forged ahead and earned good grades, while Rebecca shunned classrooms, the bond between them grew. They began spending time together, doing all the things teenagers do. Looking back at it, Bertha said, "Oh, my goodness, she was always the disaster. She was thirteen, but acted like she was eighteen. We would make up these stories to our moms so we could go out and party, like I was at her house and she was at mine, but really going out and having a good time. But, with her that young, I was so shocked that she was so, uh, out there. She was already developed like a woman. She looked good, and her boyfriend was much older, too. As we started hanging out together and being friends, I got to know her family pretty well. They were very strange. Her mom was always in the bedroom and taking pills. She had access to them through her work with a doctor. Mostly she used painkillers and was always out of it."

To Bertha, her new friend's family contrasted sharply with her own.

Born in Michoacán, Mexico, on the central west coast, Bertha laughingly explained that it sounded liked "Michigan." She also pointed out that "Bertha" is a common name in Spain, and is pronounced Bear-ta. She first came to California as a young child, accompanying her grandmother who, with her husband, had immigrated from Spain. Bertha's family moved permanently to Southern California after her tenth birthday. Having visited Mexico only once after leaving, Bertha lost all trace of any accent, and learned to speak English with clear elocution.


Excerpted from "Honeymoon With A Killer"
by .
Copyright © 2009 Don Lasseter and Ron E. Bowers.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Also by Don Lasseter,
Title Page,
Chapter 1 - Gunshots in the Night,
Chapter 2 - She Definitely Had a Way With Men,
Chapter 3 - Evolution of a Male Virgin,
Chapter 4 - She Always Wanted What She Couldn't Have,
Chapter 5 - What Was He Thinking?,
Chapter 6 - Her Pot of Gold,
Chapter 7 - Bachelorette Party,
Chapter 8 - Kick Off to a Honeymoon,
Chapter 9 - Am I Supposed to Satisfy Myself?,
Chapter 10 - Party Time,
Chapter 11 - I Have to Play This Charade,
Chapter 12 - Deadly Reconciliation,
Chapter 13 – How's the Investigation Going?,
Chapter 14 - What Am I Gonna Do Now?,
Chapter 15 - Mystery of the Missing Ring,
Chapter 16 - Photograph Number Four,
Chapter 17 - Cell Phones and Cell Doors,
Chapter 18 - We Have a Hit to Do,
Chapter 19 - Greedy Wives,
Chapter 20 - Preparing for Battle,
Chapter 21 - Opening Statements,
Chapter 22 - Witness for the Prosecution,
Chapter 23 - A Heartless Conspirator,
Chapter 24 - The Voices of Virtue and a Villain,
Chapter 25 - Eyewitnesses,
Chapter 26 - The Prosecution Rests,
Chapter 27 - Alibi: The Back Side Is the Front Side?,
Chapter 28 – Alvaro's Version,
Chapter 29 - I Don't Remember,
Chapter 30 - Closing Arguments,
Chapter 31 - The Defense Attack,
Chapter 32 - Verdicts and Upheaval,
Chapter 33 – Rebecca's New Strategy,
Chapter 34 - Protecting Jose,
Copyright Page,

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Honeymoon with a Killer 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are a fan of true crime this book is a must read.
ntrue10 More than 1 year ago
Don Lasseter and Ronald Bowers really put this together well. It won't disappoint you! This story is soooo incredibly sad, what a cunning woman! Bruce was a hard working guy; loved his parents and his sister, and here comes not only trouble, but trouble of the WORST possible kind-- I wish this man had a few more street smarts. Great book, well written, good story--worthwhile purchase for sure!
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