Woman's Scribbled Note Was Key Clue in Her Murder

It led police to Elizabeth Begaren's killer ... and then her husband: prosecutors

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Aug 23, 2013 10:11 AM CDT | Updated Aug 23, 2013 10:24 AM CDT

(Newser) – A note scrawled by a prison guard minutes before her death was the clue that led to her killer, Orange County prosecutors said at the trial of her husband, who is charged with arranging the killing. Elizabeth Begaren scribbled down the license plate number of a car that followed her onto an Anaheim freeway on-ramp in 1998; her husband, Nuzzio Begaren, was driving the family sport utility vehicle, jurors were told Wednesday during opening statements in Superior Court. He pulled over and a gang member got out of the other car and shot her, prosecutors contended.

Police found a torn-up piece of paper in the dirt by the side of the freeway and reassembled it. On it, Elizabeth Begaren had scribbled the words "light blue" and the plate number. That led investigators to a Buick Regal driven by Guillermo Espinoza. Fellow gang member Jose Sandoval will testify that he saw Espinoza shoot her twice, the prosecutor told jurors. Another gang member is set to testify that Begaren's husband was a longtime acquaintance who arranged to have his wife of five months killed and insisted that it should look like a robbery; authorities contend that Nuzzio Begaren, 50, wanted to collect on a $1 million life insurance policy that he took out shortly after their marriage. He could face life in prison without possibility of parole if convicted.

Nuzzio Begaren listens to opening statements during his trial in Santa Ana, Calif. on Aug. 22, 2013. Begaren is accused of hiring gang members to kill his wife Elizabeth Wheat Begaren in 1998.
Nuzzio Begaren listens to opening statements during his trial in Santa Ana, Calif. on Aug. 22, 2013. Begaren is accused of hiring gang members to kill his wife Elizabeth Wheat Begaren in 1998.   (AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Sam Gangwer)
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