Former Clinton neighbor guilty of murder

October 4, 2008 5:42:08 PM PDT
A disbarred attorney who lived three doors down from Bill and Hillary Clinton was convicted Saturday of murdering his wife.A Westchester County jury deliberated for parts of two days before convicting Carlos Perez-Olivo of second-degree murder. He could get life in prison.

Prosecutors said the troubled lawyer shot his schoolteacher wife, Peggy, in the back of the head as she dozed in their car during a drive to their home in Chappaqua on Nov. 18, 2006.

Perez-Olivo then gave himself a superficial gunshot wound, tossed the gun in a lake, and called 911 claiming that he and his wife had been attacked by a carjacker. The 59-year-old said the armed stranger forced him off the road, muscled his way into the car, then fired three shots as the two men struggled. Later he speculated that his assailant may have been a hit man hired by a disgruntled client.

That elaborate claim of innocence failed to convince the jury, which also convicted Perez-Olivo of illegal weapons possession.

Prosecutors said Perez-Olivo wanted to collect his wife's life insurance, which totaled nearly $900,000.

The verdict, announced Saturday afternoon, prompted an outburst from the lawyer's son. The Journal News reported that Merced Perez-Hall began swearing and screaming when he learned his father's fate in a courtroom hallway, then punched a hole in a plaster wall.

Defense attorney Christopher McClure had argued during the trial that his client was telling the truth.

The jury heard a recording of Perez-Olivo's 911 call, during which he sobbingly told police that his wife had been shot by a Hispanic man and that he was driving her to the hospital.

"I'm driving! I'm driving! I'm going to get there," he said on the tape. "I can't stop. I can't stop!"

His children testified that their parents' 30-year marriage was a happy one and that their father was devastated by her death.

"He was screaming out my mom's name," said Alysia Perez-Hall, 18. "He was in complete and utter pain."

But the prosecution found a witness who testified that he had seen Perez-Olivo handling a gun just like the pre-World War II Walther PPK that investigators fished from Echo Lake in New Castle.

That gun was established as the weapon that killed Peggy Perez-Olivo.

Prosecutors also noted that Perez-Olivo had a 10-year affair during his marriage. And they said Perez-Olivo, having been disbarred three months before the shooting for misconduct in his representation of criminal clients, was having money problems.

At the time of the killing, former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said they were "saddened" to hear of the death of their neighbor.

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