Jeffrey Duvardo

I have seen several shows on this case in the past but after researching this case I wish I would have seen one recently. I know I have often proclaimed, and I still believe that they are all bias in some way, but I still would like to see a few sides of this of this story to brush myself up.  I found several appeals and habeas corpus filings that I read through, which I do believe give extremely more accurate details than just about anything else, but I was still left a little confused as to how the decisions that were made, not just by the jury, but by the courts also.  I know that Jeffrey Duvardo's siblings believe in his guilt and I want to hear more from them too.  I want to know just what I was missing.  This is another of those cases in which I cannot say that the person is guilty or innocent of the crime in which they were accused but the evidence used in the court seems not just thin but easily contradictory.  For me, it is what the court hears that matters the most. We have innocent people in jails as well as guilty people set free based on not just what evidence there is but which of that evidence is presented in court and how it is presented.  But enough of that rambling and on with the story.

On April 6, 1999 Joseph Burke went into the home of his neighbors, Mary Ann and Donald Duvardo to check on them in Nice California .  He, and apparently their daughter were worried about them and had been for a few days.  As he walked in through the unlocked back door he saw Mary Ann's body on the floor near her desk.  He immediately left the home and yelled out to his wife to call 9-1-1.

When officers arrived they would find both the bodies of Mary Ann and her husband.  They had been brutally murdered and the home appeared to be ransacked.  Mary Ann's throat had been slashed and she had been stabbed in the head several times.  Donald would be found in the laundry room just off the garage.  He had been stabbed at least fifteen times in the chest.  It was said that his hands were cut so badly that the bones were exposed and that was an indication that he had fought fiercely against his attacker.

Neither Mary Ann's purse, nor Donald's wallet were found in the home.  Also it seems that there were no prescription drugs found in the home which was odd.  Mary Ann had recently finished radiation treatment for breast cancer and Donald had been having some medical issues due to his heart and both were on medication.  In one of the bedrooms a clock had fallen off the wall and one of the hands were bent indicating that it stopped around 10:25.  

The lead detective on the case was more like a rookie it seems.  This was the first case in which he was the lead investigator but it was also only his second homicide case.  Evidence and forensics were gathered and the hunt for a perpetrator would be on.  

It would take just over two years but on April 9, 2001 authorities would arrest Mary Ann and Donald's son, Jeffrey with their murders.  They would also charge him with two counts of elder abuse.  He would go to trial in October of 2001 and his trial would last eleven weeks.

Let's start with what the prosecutors say they had and what they believed happened. Ultimately they would bring the charges against Jeffrey when they say a towel found in the master bathroom of the home, a towel that belonged in the kitchen, had blood on it that would match Jeffrey Duvardo.  The prosecution would believe that the murders had occurred on March 31, 1999, some six days before the bodies were actually found.  The date of their deaths would be argued by the defense, and for years to come in appeals but the prosecution would claim they had several reasons to believe that the murders had occurred sometime in the morning of that day.

First, it seemed to be given that they had been killed before the 4th, two days prior to being found because the clocks found in the kitchen had not been changed to observe Daylight Savings Time which had begun on that day.  The last time that anyone seemed to have seen the couple was on Tuesday March 30th.  The following day neighbor, Joseph Burke had been gone throughout the day but he and his wife had called the couple on the evening of March 31st and received no answer.  The answering machine had messages beginning from 7 am on the 31st and had been cleared prior to then.  The couple almost had a ritual in which they retrieved their mail every day between 11 and 11:30 am. It had not been retrieved on that day.  Their email, which apparently they checked often had not been checked since the morning of the 31st.  It appeared they had coffee on that morning and the cups were still out but had not been cleaned up.  There were several references to the fact that not only did the couple have pretty strict routines but their home was kept rather immaculate. 

Investigators discovered that on March 30, 1999 Jeffrey Duvardo, who lived in Valencia California some 280 miles away had taken his car into the shop for what would appear to only be a few hours of work but had rented a car using his ATM card.  He would return that car on April 1st with the car rental company claiming that he had driven between 1,100 and 1,228 (I found at least two references) in the two days that he had the vehicle.  They would argue that this was enough miles for a round trip from Valencia to Nice with miles to spare. They would come to believe that Jeffrey had left his home probably near 3 am to drive the six to seven hours to his parents' home, killed them, ransacked the home and returned to his home in time to place a call at around 6:30 pm to his wife's office from their home phone. 

The two main things that the prosecutors felt they had against him was the car rental and the DNA found on the towel.  Jeffrey had admitted not being in his parents' home in several months and it was argued that there would be no reason for a towel that did not belong in the bathroom to be there, let alone have his blood on it.

The prosecutors also had a motive of course.  It seems that even the defense could not later argue that Jeffrey Duvardo was not a liar. But as they argued being a liar does not automatically make you a murderer.  However, the prosecution was able to bring in some of Jeffrey's lies to the court room because they played into their theory of motive.  In November of 1998 Mary Ann and Donald had loaned Jeffrey $30,000 out of their retirement fund.  He told them that he was a CIA operative who would be killed if he did not complete a deal.  He claimed he had needed $200,000 but had been able to get $150,000  and just needed the remaining.  Now of course when the couple told this story to other relatives they found it as silly and unbelievable as you probably did as you just read it.  And maybe Mary Ann and Donald knew he was lying, it apparently was not something knew from Jeffrey, but it was their son.  However, no long later Donald started having more medical issues and Mary Ann had had her own and the couple began to worry about medical bills and began to pressure Jeffrey for the money they had loaned him.  

What prosecutors had discovered was that when Jeffrey had married his wife Molly in 1993 he had not been officially divorced from his first wife, Jan.  They had separated in 1989 but by the time he married neither had filed for divorce.  In fact she would not file until 1996 and even then she did not complete the process.  But, Molly knew none of this.  On top of that Molly it seems was pretty high maintenance or Jeffrey treated her as if she was.  In 1997 Jeffrey and Molly had bought a home for $260,000 but he had borrowed several thousand dollars from friends to make the down payment.  In November of 1998 when he was telling his parents he needed $50,000 for this CIA thing he really needed it because he owed his friend $54,000 back from the down payment on the house.  Molly would claim that she had not been aware of the loan from his parents and possibly any loans from anyone.  

Jeffrey worked for Boeing International and in order to enter the parking lot one had to "scan in."  Prosecutors would claim that Jeffrey had done so on every day surrounding the 31st, but not on the 31st itself.  They pointed out that it was not unusual for Jeffrey to be away from the office for a day or two without his supervisor noticing.

So putting all of this together prosecutors would believe that Jeffrey had killed his parents to prevent having to repay them the loan and also gain his inheritance from their estate.  This would keep his secret of bigamy under wraps and he would get to keep his wife.  

The defense had a totally different take on just about everything.  They of course claimed Jeffrey was innocent and that on March 31st he was not only at work at Boeing International, they could prove it.  They would show the court time sheets for meetings that had been conducted at his work and the sign in sheets with his name on them. Workers would testify that the sheets were only available at the time of the meetings and that Jeffrey would not be able to assess them after that time.  While the defense would have to contend that after those meetings had taken place Jeffrey could have conceivable left and no one actually notice, they argued there was no way that he could have attended the meetings and still made it to Nice and back and make his phone call at 6:30.  A co-worker would testify and claim that on the 31st the meeting dealt with something in Jeffrey's area and that his absence would have been noticed.  Now, I have no idea how the co-worker would remember that particular day or when he or she made this statement.  

Then there was the rental car.  The company had said there was over 1,100 miles put on the car in two days and the prosecutor pointed out that was enough to get to Nice and back with miles to spare.  The problem is that the rental company had issues with records.  One of the appeals stated that for example one record said they had first received the car on the lot on a particular day but then another showed it had been rented out the day before it supposedly arrived.  Another showed a vehicle in which less miles were shown to be on the car from a return than there were when the customer had taken it.  It was true that Jeffrey had rented the car.  He also lived one hour from his work so he drove a significant amount of miles on a daily basis, I agree not 1,000 miles in two days but more than the average person.  

The defense had an expect who argued that while the blood on the towel may have been Jeffrey's there was no way of telling the age of the blood and when it was deposited.  But the towel itself was interesting because the lead detective would claim that he had looked in the bathroom at some point prior to it being found and found it clean.  Later this towel had been found "balled" up in the sink.  The blood on it was about 1 inch by 1.5 inches in size. The other strange thing about this towels was that the officer who had been in charge of taking pictures of the crime scene would claim to be missing the "roll" of film in which the picture of the towel at the crime scene had been taken.

The defense would also have their own pathologist who would argue that the Duvardo's were not murdered on the 31st, the one day the prosecution believed they could link Jeffrey. The thermostat in the home was set at 74 degrees and the heat had been on.  Many of the officers testified that the home was "uncomfortably warm" and yet neither the neighbor who found the bodies, nor any of the officers who had been in the home smelled an odor associated with decomposition.  The original pathologist would only say that the couple had been dead in the home for "days."  It was the prosecutors who had determined that it had been six days.  The defense pathologist said possibly three or four but he argued there it was not possible to have been six due to the condition of decomposition and the lack of odor.

As I said in the beginning at least two of Jeffrey's siblings believe in his guilt.  I found references in articles and I know I have seen them on television shows. But, this is why I had also said I wish I would have seen one of those shows recently to refresh my memory because I am unsure what allowed them to come to that conclusion.

In December of 2001 Jeffrey was found guilty of two counts of 1st degree murder with special circumstances and two counts of elder abuse.  The prosecution had planned to seek the death penalty but apparently at the last minute had changed their minds.  In May of 2002 he was sentenced to two life terms without the possibility of parole on the murder charges.  The judge suspended the sentence on the elder abuse.

As is often the case Jeffrey had appeal his case several times and it is through those appeals that I have gotten most of the information available here.  When you want to know the facts of a case there is no better place to look than at appeal papers. There is always a general summery of the case and then it will go into specifics that are argued in the appeal. Quotes are made at times but only those that which were testified in the courtroom.  I tried to dig a little deeper into the papers that in general are dozens of pages per appeal because I found myself a bit confused, especially in the last appeal I found from 2010.  The language and the information within led me to believe that the justices that decided the case were more on his side than the prosecutors, pointing out the errors of the rental care company and other things such as there were no fingerprints connected to Jeffrey found at the crime scene.  

Several things about this case bother me.  First, I am unsure that I find either the towel found with Jeffrey's blood on it in the bathroom, or the mileage on the rental car reliable and these were the two main, and really only things, that the prosecution had on him.  As far as the towel goes, I agree that the original detective who said he did not see it in the sink could have simply been mistaken but then for the other officer to claim that the pictures of showing the towel where it was found were missing just seems odd to me.  The chain of custody seems to be lacking in that area.  As far as the car, it is true he rented one for two days and it is true that his own car was only in the shop or needed to be for a few hours so it would seem odd he would have rented the car at all, let alone for that long, but sometimes people do odd, innocent things.  I believe even the appeals court found issue with the records kept with the rental company because they were mentioned several times.  

I am also bothered by the sign in sheets for his work.  There were at least two people who testified that those sheets were only available at the time of the meetings.  The meetings were one right after the other and even if Jeffrey had only attended one, signed the sheet to the next one and left, there does not seem to be enough time for him to have committed this crime.  After the meeting the co-workers claim that they one particular woman was in charge of holding them and that they were often left in a locked file cabinet and the woman was nearly always at her desk.  Of course this does not mean there is absolutely no way he could not have gotten to them but there is no evidence to prove that he had.  I do admit that the issue that he supposedly did not scan in at the main gate that morning is troubling. 

As far as the date of death of the couple I admit to lean towards the prosecutions theory, although the lack of odor after supposedly six days is troubling to me.  I believe the 31st was the date mainly because of the routine of the couple and the fact that others tried to reach them.  Neighbor Joseph Burke would not be home on the 31st until the evening but says he attempted to reach them that night and did not receive an answer.  For the next several days it seems they were not answering their phone, their door or collecting their mail.  They did not change their clocks on the evening of the 3rd or the morning of the 4th for Daylight Savings Time and on the 5th their daughter had asked the police to do a welfare check on the home.  Officers arrived and found nothing unusual, but also did not receive an answer. It was indicated that Joseph Burke often watched the home when the couple were away and he had not been told they would be leaving.  It was said that the bodies were comparable with each other in stages as far as decomposition which does seem odd to me. It was said that while the heat was on in the home, Donald's body was found in the unheated laundry room while Mary Ann had been found inside the home where it was warmer.  This does not seem to be addressed other than it is believed that she had been killed first and taken off guard and that Donald was attacked second.  

It has been alleged that there were unknown fingerprints found in the home that were never tested against anyone but the victims and their son.  And, that soon after the murders it was Jeffrey who applied for their life insurance.

I want to see and know more about this case.  I want to know what else there was that I was missing.  I know there was significant testimony as to lies that Jeffrey had made throughout his life as far as a military career, terminal illnesses and other things but as his defense would claim a liar does not make a murderer.  I want to know how his co-workers can be so certain he was there at work that day.  I want to know what testing was done on the bodies. I do not know if Jeffrey Duvardo killed his parents or not.  It seems that he had possible motive, and he may have even had the means.  I am just not sure that what was presented in court, or at least what I could find proved it.  One of the appeals papers said that after five days of deliberating the jury had asked for more information that seemed to be about how their verdict had to be (being unanimous) and that it was on the sixth day that they returned the verdict.  I want to hear from some of them.  What ultimately tipped the scale for them?  

 It was often said that Jeffrey had wanted to be a police officer but had failed and yet I found two instances in which in his younger years he had been a police officer.  I found a reference that he had been a member of the Newport Beach police department for about fifteen months and that he had resigned in 1980 but the reason was left unknown.  He had also then spent eight months at the Beverly Hills police department but was fired for poor performance.  I want to hear more about this too.


  1. Regarding Jeffrey Duvardo - I am absolutely positive that he did it. He claimed that he had his daughter for that weekend, and he did not - she was with US for the weekend - the first day back at school, our kids told us that his daughter said that her grandparents were murdered, we looked at each other and immediately said, where was Jeff? We had been called to testify to this fact, but were then told that he was taking the life without parole deal - we were contacted by the Lake County Sherriff's/DA's office - my husband went to high school with both Jeff and Jan. We knew that he and Jan had never formally divorced, as we often saw Jan at school functions and around town. We didn't know about his double life with Molly, only that his daughter would visit them in Valencia often. Jeff was a police officer with the Santa Monica Police department sometime around 1977 to 1979. He was a bully in high school, and was not a good police officer, harassing previous classmates whenever possible. They needed to throw the key away on this guy.


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