An Indiana man allegedly stabbed his mother to death in her Grover Beach home in order to steal her will and sell off her assets, district attorney’s office investigators testified on Monday. [Tribune]
On Oct. 25, 2018, Grover Beach police officers conducting a welfare check at a condominium in the 200 block of 9th Street found the body of Athena Valentiny, 64. An assailant had stabbed and killed Valentiny, a California Men’s Colony nurse, the day before, police said.
San Luis Obispo County prosecutors charged Valentiny’s son, Levente Laszlo Lazar with first-degree murder. Lazar also faces an enhancement for allegedly committing the murder for financial gain, for which he could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
On Monday, Lazar appeared in court for a preliminary hearing that concluded with Judge Matthew Guerrero ruling there is sufficient evidence for the case to go to trial.
During the hearing, investigators testified that Valentiny drove from Indiana to Grover Beach, plunged a sharp object into his mother’s neck up to 10 times, stole items from her condo and then drove back to Indiana. Investigators say they found Valentiny’s original will or trust at Lazar’s home.
Upon taking the stand, DA’s investigator Casey Neall testified that surveillance footage shows a person who looks like Lazar emerging from Valentiny’s condo complex carrying a backpack and holding an unknown object. An unleashed dog was following the individual.
Grover Beach police had previously said they were searching for Valentiny’s dog. Neall testified the dog has never been found.
Lazar allegedly entered a white Jeep several blocks away and drove toward Highway 101. He was traced in various locations on Highway 166 going through Bakersfield, and Lazar later allegedly stopped at a McDonald’s in Winslow, Arizona and accessed the restaurant’s wifi with his iPad.
In the McDonald’s, Lazar entered search phrases like, “Levente Lazar murder” and “Levente Lazar suspect Grover Beach,” Neall testified.
When Neall interviewed Lazar, the Indiana man said he did not plan to attend his mother’s funeral. Lazar said, though, he would be in Alameda Superior Court in Oakland to collect an approximately $230,000 settlement from an annuity from the estate of Valentiny’s former boyfriend, who was at one time like a father to him, Neall testified.
Lazar told Neall he had previously received received about $155,000 from the estate and planned to take a $40,000 penalty to withdraw the funds before his 30th birthday, the investigator testified.
The Indiana man owed the IRS about $12,000. Lazar was also in talks with a real estate broker about selling his mother’s $440,000 Woodland Hills condo, Neall said.