A man hired to help kill the estranged wife of a respiratory therapist in Westminster was convicted Thursday of murder.
Anthony Edward Bridget, who is scheduled to be sentenced June 1, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Jurors found true special circumstances allegations of financial gain and lying in wait, as well as conspiracy and assault with a deadly weapon or force likely to produce great bodily injury, but prosecutors opted not to seek the death penalty against the 44-year-old defendant, who restrained the teenage son of Ariet Girgis while another man killed her on Sept. 29, 2004, at the behest of her husband.
Magdi Girgis, 65, was sentenced in June 2014 to life in prison without the possibility of parole for hiring the hitmen to kill his 55-year-old estranged spouse.
The hired killers forced their way into the victim’s home at 14657 Plum St. about 3:40 a.m. and Bridget tied up her son while his unidentified accomplice, who remains at large, inflicted 30 slashing and stab wounds on the Egyptian-born woman, who was “basically decapitated,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Whitney Bokosky said.
Ryan Girgis had snuck back into the home a couple hours prior after smoking marijuana with friends, the prosecutor said. He caught a glimpse of his mother — his last look — as she told the intruders to “take whatever you want,” Bokosky said, “but they weren’t there to take anything but her life.”
As the teen struggled with his captor, Bridget took the laces out of a shoe in the closet and used them to bind the boy. At some point, the youth sensed the attackers had left and made a run for it, passing by his mother’s room because he was frightened the suspects might still be in the house and because he feared seeing what had happened to her, Bokosky said.
The teen dialed 911 from his cell phone while unsuccessfully trying to rouse neighbors to help him, she said.
The victim’s husband liked to “hoard money” and would have worked every day of the week if he could, Bokosky said. An argument with his wife about money in February 2004 led him to punch her in the face so hard that her sons brought her to a hospital, where the “ball got rolling” on a domestic violence case, the prosecutor said.
Magdi Girgis, who was a respiratory therapist, feared losing his license if he got a felony conviction so he attempted to get his son, Richard, to convince his mother not to testify against him at a preliminary hearing so the case would get dropped, Bokosky said. But at that August 2004 hearing, “she didn’t do what she was told” and testified that her husband beat her and that she was scared of him, the prosecutor said.
“Lo and behold, two months later Ariet Girgis is forever silenced,” Bokosky said.
The case went cold, but in 2011 Westminster police took another pass at it, the prosecutor said. She said DNA found on the shoelaces used to bind Ryan Girgis and on the teen’s right index finger led investigators to Bridget.
In January 2013, police conducted an undercover sting pretending to blackmail Magdi Girgis, who negotiated a payment to the officers from $5,000 down to $1,500, Bokosky said.
Bridget’s attorney, Isabel Apkarian, said in her opening statement that the victim’s son “smoked a lot of marijuana” the night of his mother’s death and told authorities he did not get a good look at his attacker.
The attorney contended that prosecutors wouldn’t be able to say when or how Bridget’s DNA might have been left on the shoelace, Apkarian said. Also, the DNA left on Ryan Girgis could have come from many other people aside from her client, the defense attorney said.
“How do innocent people get convicted in this country?” Apkarian said. “You look at the gaping holes in the evidence in this case and you will have your answer.”