More than 10 years after the fact, a former part-owner of a Chatsworth, Calif., sheet extrusion firm was sentenced April 22 to 25 years to life in prison for hiring hit men to kill his parents. Neil Woodman, 52, was convicted in January of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the so-called ``Ninja Murders'' of his parents, Gerald and Vera Woodman as they returned home from a family celebration of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur in 1985.
The couple was gunned down in the garage of their Los Angeles condominium by gunmen wearing black-hooded sweatshirts one eyewitness described as similar to the garments worn by Japa-nese ninja warriors.
A jury in 1993 deadlocked 7-5 in favor of guilt in a first trial, but a second trial, which ended in January, resulted in Neil Wood-man's conviction.
Woodman's brother, Stewart, in 1990, pleaded guilty to the charges and testified that he and his brother had hired hit men to kill their parents. Stewart Wood-man made the plea to avoid a possible death sentence in the case, and was sentenced to life in prison.
Steven Homick, a former Los Angeles police officer, and his brother, Robert, a lawyer, each were charged with two counts of murder and one of conspiracy. Prosecutors said they were the hit men.
Robert Homick was sentenced to death in connection with an earlier triple homicide in Las Vagas.
Anthony Majoy and Michael Dominguez, two men who acted as lookouts, were conviced of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Bearing some eerie similarities to recent high-profile parental murder cases, the Woodman brothers hired the hit men to kill their parents to claim a $500,000 insurance policy on their mother. Prosecutors said the brothers intended to use the money to rescue Manchester Plastics Co., a plastics extrusion company founded by their father.
The case gained notoriety in Los Angeles and was adaped for a made-for-television move, "Bloodline: Murder in the Family," which starred Elliott Gould. Prosecutors proved the murder-for-hire stemmed from a deep schism within the family, which saw teh sons force their father out of the business. The brothers charged that their father was cruel to them as children and to his grandchildren. Gerald Woodman was protrayed as highly competitive, fascinated by gambling and obsessed with crushing competition.
Having founded Manchester Plastics in 1975, Gerald Woodman gave part of his half of the business to his sons, paying Neil and Stewart $2,000 per-week salaries, even though neither had a college education nor esperience in the business.
When their younger brother Wayne graduated from Duke University in 1978, Vera Woodman have her half of the company to him, and it was the third brother's more sophisticated managemen style that began the family split, according to testimony. Gerald Weedman disagreed with his older sons on what direction the company should take, and rejected their offer of $2 million for his share of the company.
Gerald Woodman filed suit to dissolve the company, lost and was forced out; however, to prove he could not be cowed by his sons, he started a competing company.
That firm bankrupted him and failed.