In Memory

Bruce Cleland

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Woman's Conviction for Murdering Husband Stands By Ruby Gonzales, Staff Writer Article Launched: 07/26/2008 11:23:25 PM PDT Bruce Cleland met Rebecca Quezada Salcedo while she sold spices at the Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet. He struck up a conversation. The software designer was smitten. She liked his money more. Their marriage was brief but fatal for the South Pasadena man. Bruce Cleland, 43, was shot several times and killed July 26, 1997, while returning from a reconciliation dinner in Boyle Heights with his estranged wife. He ran from his attacker, but to no avail. He was found lying facedown on a driveway. Rebecca Cleland, 38, of Whittier said she had been knocked unconscious outside the couple's Toyota 4Runner and woke up to find her husband dead. She claimed there had been an attempted carjacking. But she wasn't injured and the SUV and her purse were still there. Skeptical detectives started digging. Authorities said Rebecca Cleland masterminded a plot to kill her wealthy husband to get her hands on $986,688 in life insurance policies, salary and a retirement account. Her accomplices were her cousins, Alvaro and Jose Quezada. Alvaro drove the getaway car, Jose was the gunman. "It was all about the money," said Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum, who prosecuted the case. He called her "evil" during the first trial in 2000. "Evil because she just took advantage of this poor guy's naivete and killed him for his money." The tale of greed run amok has played out in the courts far longer than the Cleland's six-month marriage. There's been a trial, a retrial and an appeal. Last week's decision by the 2nd District Court of Appeal to uphold Rebecca Cleland's murder conviction is just the latest legal update. Jose Quezada's appeal is still pending. "I feel very good the Court of Appeals upheld her conviction. I hope Jose's will be, too," Hum said. He said he hopes the three stay in prison for the rest of their lives, "where they belong." Bruce Cleland worked as a software designer for TRW's aerospace section and liked to go to swap meets with his father. He fell hard for the woman he met while at a spice stand. "He thought he found the love of his life," Hum said. "She had no interest in him at all. Period." But she wanted what he could buy. A diamond ring, cosmetic surgery, a car, a boat, a Jacuzzi and a house on Colima Road. He didn't know she used his credit cards to pay for breast augmentation surgery and furniture, according to court documents. She persuaded him to marry her secretly in a civil ceremony in October 1996. Bruce Cleland's brother-in- law, Ed Brown, said no one knew about that wedding. The prosecution said Rebecca Cleland figured if she killed her husband, she would get everything. She stood to gain nearly $1 million with his death. On July 25, 1997, the couple ate dinner at La Parrilla in Boyle Heights and had a couple of drinks. They dropped by her uncle's house and had cocktails. The uncle is the father of Jose and Alvaro Quezada. She told her husband she would drive him home. In the early morning hours of July 26, 1997, Rebecca Cleland pulled over at Beswick and Concord streets at a freeway onramp in Los Angeles that was closed for construction. She later told police she saw a warning light on the dashboard indicating the rear hatch was open, according to court documents. A man, later identified as Jose Quezada, walked up to the passenger side of the SUV and shot Bruce Cleland in the face, hitting him in the lip. The wounded man got out and ran. Jose Quezada shot him at least once in the back. When Bruce Cleland fell, he was shot twice in the back of the head. Hum presented evidence of 11 cell phone calls between Alvaro Quezada and Rebecca Cleland in the hours leading up to the shooting. Several of the calls placed him and his phone close to where Bruce Cleland was killed. Joseph Orr, who represented Rebecca Cleland at her first trial, said in his opinion greed was the reason why his former client married her husband. Orr was surprised several of her relatives didn't like her and thought she was a "shark." The jury also didn't like her and the prosecution had enough to convince the jury, he added. Rebecca Cleland and her cousins were convicted of her husband's killing in 2000. But three years later, the 2nd District Court of Appeal overturned her and Jose Quezada's convictions, saying their Fifth Amendment right to self-incrimination was violated when the trial court allowed evidence and the prosecution's comment about their silence while sitting in the back of a police car. Hum had said their silence spoke volumes. At her 2006 retrial, a jury found Cleland guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and the special allegation of murder for profit and lying in wait. She again received a life sentence without parole. Jose Quezada was convicted in his separate retrial of conspiracy to commit murder and murder with special circumstances. Both appealed. The same appeals court upheld Cleland's conviction July 21 and didn't buy her claim that she received ineffectual counsel at her retrial. Jose Quezada's appeal is pending. ruby.gonzales@sgvn.com (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3026



 
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09/11/08 06:12 PM #1    

Michael Magamez

I remeber the day I read about Bruce's death. I was casually browsing an L.A. Times sotry about a guy whose young wife ("allegedly")had him killed. Suddenly, Bruce's name jumped off the page...Could it be THAT Bruce? the guy I always remembered dribbling a basketball, at SPHS? Sadly, it was.

Almost sadder was when I saw an elderly couple buying a birthday cake, with the name "Bruce" on it, at the SoPas Ralphs I used to work at. My heart sank when the lady mentioned how they had a son, Bruce, who was killed, and they still celebrated his birthday. Tears are a hard thing to hold back.

10/09/08 10:18 AM #2    

Doug Calli

My heart goes out to his family and friends, Bruce was an old friend.
Bruce and I met at Oneonta grammer school and became instant friends. I ran his campaign for school President, using a Batman themed poster and costume. Guess he should have found someone who knew how to campaign instead of his buddy!;)

I feel blessed to have known this gentle soul.

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