After 29 years, B.C. man convicted of killing Palm Springs woman for her money
Jury convicted Anthony Kubica, 63, after single day of deliberations
A British Columbian man who beat a 78-year-old woman to death in southern California so he could drain her savings accounts and pay off his own debts nearly 30 years ago has been found guilty of first-degree murder.
Anthony Michael Kubica, 63, was convicted by jury on Tuesday after a single day of deliberations in a Banning, Calif. court.
Jurors heard the Shawnigan Lake, B.C., man forced Marie Darling to transfer nearly $200,000 from her bank account to his own overseas account before killing her and leaving her remains in the Palm Springs desert in June 1990.
"She was an older woman who was in the twilight of her life and enjoying travel and friends and things like that, and just happened to run across pretty unscrupulous people," said Carl Carter, a retired police captain who led the homicide investigation into Darling's death.
"Marie Darling was a true victim."
Carter, a 35-year policing veteran who spent 15 years investigating homicides, testified during Kubica's murder trial and heard news of the verdict from his home on the Mississippi gulf coast. Reached by phone Tuesday, the investigator remembered details of the case clearly.
He was working with the homicide unit in the Riverside County Sheriff's Department when he got a call about skeletal remains hikers had found in a shallow, desert grave just off the Interstate 10 on June 20, 1990. Animals had interfered with the burial site and remains were strewn across the area, about 65 kilometres east of the city.
"We found a set of dentures which led to, ultimately, Marie Darling being positively identified," Carter said.
He said Darling was a widow and lived alone in a small condo in the city. Neighbours reported her missing on June 2, 1990. Investigators later found she'd been abducted and forced to sign a letter, giving away access to her bank accounts before she was killed.
"They duct-taped her hands and feet [and] in and around her mouth, put her in a sleeping bag, tied the top of the sleeping bag and took her into the desert," Carter said.
An autopsy found Darling had multiple skull fractures and died of blunt force trauma to her head.
$185K transferred from victim's accounts
Carter said police surmised the motive for Darling's murder would have been money, as she was a "woman of means" who wasn't involved in crime. Investigators looked into her finances and, after several years working with international authorities, found nearly $185,000 had been transferred from her Swiss bank account to another bank account in Anguilla.
The Caribbean account was in Kubica's name.
Bank records showed Kubica withdrew $170,000 from the Anguillan account and transferred some of the money to the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).
Carter said Kubica was behind on mortgage payments and facing foreclosure on his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. in the months leading up to the murder. He said Kubica knew Darling had savings because his wife had done investment counselling with her.
After Darling's death, Carter said, Kubica caught up on his all his late mortgage payments at once.
Carter and his team searched Kubica's Scottsdale home in the mid-'90s and found receipts for the money moved between Anguilla and RBC.
"I detained him in Scottsdale — both he and his wife," Carter said Wednesday. "Both retained their rights and refused to be interviewed ... [but Kubica] spontaneously talked to me later and said he didn't know Ms. Darling and he wasn't in the country when she was killed."
Carter said he took the case to the district attorney's office, but said prosecutors asked for more evidence.
"Frankly, at that time, there was no more evidence," said Carter.
Kubica returned to B.C. His wife has since died.
New witnesses revive case
The investigation sat dormant for years until a new district attorney found fresh witnesses to spark life back into the case in 2014. Extradition proceedings began and Kubica was returned to California from B.C. in 2018.
Carter, who has been retired since 2010, also returned to testify against the suspect he'd arrested nearly two decades earlier.
"We remembered each other. We're a lot older now, but we remembered each other. Certainly," said Carter, now 65.
"This is a particularly heinous murder ... I'm just glad to see that he is being held responsible for his actions. By and large, the largest number of homicides that an investigator looks into involve people that are involved in risky behaviour and Marie Darling was not anything like that," he said.
Kubica, now a balding, greying man, remains in custody in California. His sentencing is set for Jan. 10.
His lawyers have already filed a motion to dismiss the verdict.