Jury begins deliberating in retrial of suspect in 2008 murder of retired art dealer

Closing arguments wrapped up on Monday in the retrial of one of several suspects accused in the 2008 killing of a retired art dealer in Palm Springs.

Daniel Carlos Garcia is charged with one felony count each of murder, conspiracy to commit a crime, using the personal identity information of another to obtain credit, and using a forged instrument

He’s also charged with three felony counts of burglary, two of grand theft over $950 and one misdemeanor count of receiving stolen property, according to court records. He additionally faces a special circumstance allegation of murder for financial gain and a sentence-enhancing allegation of fraud or embezzlement.

Garcia was convicted in 2012 with Kaushal Niroula, 41, in the 2008 Palm Springs killing of Clifford Lambert, and both were sentenced to life terms. But they were granted new trials because of the behavior of the judge in the original trial. Niroula was killed at the Cois Byrd Detention Center on Sept. 6, 2022.

Co-defendants Miguel Bustamante, 40 and David Replogle, 74, were first convicted in 2011, resulting in sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole. However, they appealed their verdicts based on appeals successfully lodged by Garcia and Niroula.

Replogle, on Aug. 11, 2022, and Bustamante, on June 14, were convicted again but have yet to be sentenced. Both defendants faced the same felony charges as Garcia and were both found guilty on all but one felony count of grand theft over $950, which they both had dismissed.

Replogle is set to be sentenced on Jan. 12 and Bustamante on Nov. 17

Other co-defendants are Russell Manning, who is now dead, and Craig McCarthy, who pleaded guilty in 2010 to felony charges.

Lambert was fatally stabbed in the kitchen of his Palm Springs home on Dec. 5, 2008, and buried in the desert.

Lambert’s remains were found in a ravine near Castaic, California, off Interstate 5.

“Mr. Lambert laid there, deceased, for a long time,” said Senior Deputy District Attorney Rob Hightower.

In June 2016, eight years after the murder, pipeline workers found a jawbone. 10 months later, environmental workers found a skull. In September 2020, the Kern County Coroner’s Office confirmed the remains were those of Lambert.

Deputy District Attorney Lisa DiMaria said during Garcia’s and Niroula’s trial that Garcia met Lambert online less than a year before he died, and Lambert paid for Garcia to travel from Northern California to see him.

Garcia’s visit didn’t go well, and he left earlier than planned.   

According to the prosecution, Lambert kept a small circle of friends and was searching for companionship online when he met Garcia.   

Text messages from Garcia’s phone showed that he had contact information for Replogle, who had been his attorney at one point and became a friend, as well as Bustamante, a student and bartender in the Bay Area.   

According to the prosecution, the men hatched a plan to steal from the retiree, drawing two others into the scheme — San Francisco art dealer Russell Herbert Manning and Craig Anthony McCarthy, also of the Bay Area.  

Manning pleaded guilty in 2010 to burglary, forgery, grand theft and several other offenses, leading to a five-year prison sentence. In 2013, McCarthy admitted charges of voluntary manslaughter, robbery and six other felony counts, resulting in a 25-year term behind bars.

DiMaria said Garcia sent Lambert’s address and phone number to Niroula, and on Dec. 1, 2008, Replogle and Niroula flew to Burbank and drove to Palm Springs. The next day, Niroula posed as an attorney representing a wealthy New York family that had purportedly left Lambert money or valuable artwork in a will, the prosecutor said.  

On Dec. 5, Niroula was at Lambert’s home, and at some point, he let McCarthy and Bustamante into the house, the prosecutor said. McCarthy grabbed Lambert and held him at knifepoint in the kitchen, while Bustamante fatally stabbed the victim, DiMaria told jurors.

She said Niroula brought bedding into the kitchen so they could wrap up the body, while Bustamante and McCarthy cleaned up the blood.   

They put Lambert’s body into the trunk of his own Mercedes-Benz, and Bustamante and McCarthy buried him in the desert the next day, according to the prosecution.

On Dec. 10, Niroula opened a Wells Fargo account with Replogle’s information, according to DiMaria. The next day, Replogle, posing as Lambert, gave Manning power of attorney over Lambert’s accounts, and Manning — accompanied by Niroula — wired $185,000 from Lambert’s Palm Springs bank account to the newly opened Wells Fargo account, according to the prosecution.   

On Dec. 12, Replogle, again posing as Lambert, forged four power-of-attorney documents, including a durable power of attorney granting Manning carte blanche over Lambert’s entire estate, DiMaria said.

Money was then shelled out to the other co-conspirators, who were eventually implicated based on the wire transfers and other paper trails, according to prosecutors.

Stay with News Channel 3 for continuing updates on this case.

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