Mary Samuels Murders 2 Men

Mary Samuels is a woman from California who was sentenced to death for the murder of two men.

Mary Samuels decided that she loved money more than her husband and would hire a hit man in order to kill him. After the hit man would kill her husband Mary Samuels became paranoid that the police would be able to connect him to her so she would hire yet another hit man in order to kill the first hit man.

Once the first hit man was dead Mary Samuels would collect the insurance payout from her husband. By the time police had Mary Samuels in custody she managed to blow through the majority of the insurance payout

Mary Samuels would be convicted and sentenced to death

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Mary Samuels

Mary Samuels FAQ

Where is Mary Samuels Now

Mary Samuels is currently incarcerated at the Central California Women’s Facility

Mary Samuels Court Case

Defendant was married to Robert Samuels. On October 31, 1986,

Mary Samuels filed for divorce. Even after the divorce proceedings were initiated,

Mary Samuels and Robert Samuels were cordial, and defendant continued to work in

the Subway restaurant she and Robert Samuels owned. However, by November

1988, just before his murder, Robert Samuels was depressed and had a less than

friendly relationship with defendant.

On October 31, 1988—approximately two months before he was killed—

Robert Samuels went to his divorce attorney, Elizabeth Kaufman, and signed a

document seeking changes to his divorce agreement. Robert Samuels wanted to

run the Subway restaurant because he was unemployed and felt he would be better

at running the business. He also wanted to reduce spousal support payments

below the $1,200 per month level because he was no longer able to pay that

amount. The modification was never filed because Kaufman was waiting for

Robert Samuels to complete a portion of the paperwork.

1. The Solicitation and Murder of Robert Samuels

Beginning in 1987, Mary Samuels solicited people to murder Robert Samuels

on numerous occasions.

Anne Hambly, defendant’s friend, testified defendant told her that after

several attempts to find someone to kill Robert Samuels had failed, defendant was

able to get James Bernstein to agree to commit the murder. Bernstein was dating

Mary Samuels’s daughter, Nicole Samuels. Bernstein was apparently angered when

defendant told him that Robert Samuels had abused Nicole. A month before

Robert Samuels was murdered, Bernstein said he wanted Samuels “taken care of

permanently” because he was a child molester and batterer. He asked his


employer, Charles Mandel, if he knew anyone who could “take care of it.”

Mandel provided Bernstein with the phone number of Mike Silva. Also, during

November and December 1988, Bernstein asked a friend who owned a gun shop if

he could get some weapons.

On December 7, 1988, Mary Samuels told Anne Hambly that Robert Samuels

was dead and that she planned to “discover” his body in two days. On

December 8, 1988, Nicole Samuels called her friend, David Navarro, and said “it’s

done” in reference to Robert Samuels’s murder.

On December 9, 1988, the Los Angeles Fire Department responded to a call

from Robert Samuels’s home. Robert Samuels was found dead. He had been

dead for over 12 hours and was killed by a shotgun blast fired into his head from

close range. Samuels also suffered a blunt force trauma to his head that was a

contributing factor to his death.

Mary Samuels and Nicole Samuels were present when the police arrived.

Mary Samuels and Nicole worked to make it appear that there had been a struggle in

the house. Defendant told the police she discovered Robert Samuels’s body while

dropping off the family’s dog. Defendant sought to bolster this story by leaving

messages on Samuels’s answering machine regarding her plans to drop off the


Anne Hambly testified that she also went to Robert Samuels’s house the

night he was found dead. Referring to the murder of Robert Samuels, defendant

told Hambly that she could not believe that “it had finally happened” and that she

had given Bernstein money six months earlier to arrange the killing. Mary Samuels

feared being caught and was also afraid to speak because she thought the police

had “bugged” her car, purse, and home.

At trial, the prosecution introduced evidence showing defendant collected

on several insurance policies after Robert Samuels’s death. The total amount of


these policies was in excess of $240,000. In addition, the prosecution introduced

evidence that a sandwich shop owned by Robert Samuels and defendant was sold

in early 1989, and Mary Samuels kept the proceeds of approximately $70,000.

Additional evidence introduced by the prosecution showing how defendant

benefited from Robert Samuels’s death included: (1) defendant kept a car owned

by Robert Samuels; (2) she received approximately $6,000 in uncashed payroll

checks of Robert Samuels; and (3) she refinanced the family home after Robert

Samuels’s death, thereby gaining possession of an additional $160,000.

Mary Samuels began to live a lavish lifestyle after Robert Samuels died. In

addition, defendant made several incriminating statements after his death. For

example, when asked by Anne Hambly who Mike Silva was, defendant told

Hambly that Silva was hired by Bernstein to kill Robert Samuels. Mary Samuels also

told a friend, Marsha Hutchinson, that if she were not careful in her divorce

proceedings, then Hutchinson’s husband might decide to put a hit on her.

Mary Samuels also spoke and acted in a manner that led Bernstein’s older brother and

sister-in-law to believe that defendant had Robert Samuels killed.

James Bernstein also made incriminating statements after Robert Samuels’s

death. He told his employer, Charles Mandel, that Robert Samuels’s murder had

been taken care of and that he received money from defendant to pay Silva for his

part in the crime.

2. The Solicitation and Murder of James Bernstein

On June 27, 1989, James Bernstein was killed. The circumstances leading

to his murder are as follows: David Navarro and James Bernstein met in February

1989. Navarro testified he met Bernstein through Nicole Samuels, who was a

friend of Navarro’s girlfriend.


Navarro and Bernstein became friends and they sold drugs together until

Bernstein disappeared in June 1989. Bernstein and Navarro were together when

Bernstein received a page, called the number he had been sent, and then went to

meet Mike Silva. Bernstein referred to Silva as the “hit man.”

Navarro made an anonymous call to the police and provided them with the

phone number Bernstein received via the page and Mike Silva’s name. Navarro

also provided the names of Mary Samuels and Bernstein to the police. Los Angeles

Police Officer John Birrer received Navarro’s call on May 1, 1989. After Navarro

provided this information, the police served search warrants. Police searched

Bernstein’s apartment on May 16, 1989, in connection with the murder of Robert

Samuels. The police also searched the victim’s house.

In late May or early June 1989, Bernstein told a friend, Rennie Goldberg,

he was feeling remorseful and frightened of being caught. He wanted to confess

his involvement in Robert Samuels’s murder. By June 1989, Bernstein had

become so afraid that he wanted to move out of the area. By the end of June 1989,

Bernstein was ready to go to the police and admit what he knew. He told Navarro

that he and Mike Silva had killed Robert Samuels and that defendant had paid

them for it. He repeatedly said that Mary Samuels had solicited him to murder Robert

Samuels. Bernstein stated that Mary Samuels wanted Robert Samuels killed for

insurance money, and that one person had been paid but did not do the job so she

approached Bernstein to see if he would do it. On June 26, 1989, Bernstein told

his older brother that he was frightened and that he was the only person who could

“burn Mary Ellen.”

After Robert Samuels’s murder, defendant told Anne Hambly that she

wanted Bernstein killed because she thought he would go to the police and

disclose her involvement in the murder. In March or April of 1989, Anne Hambly

introduced Paul Gaul to defendant. Gaul was Hambly’s live-in boyfriend.


Hambly believed Gaul could help Mary Samuels with her trouble with Bernstein.

Defendant and Gaul had several conversations about Robert Samuels’s death. In

the first conversation, Mary Samuels mentioned she received insurance money from

Robert Samuels’s death and that Bernstein was blackmailing her for her

involvement in the murder. In the second conversation, defendant repeated the

substance of the first conversation and added that she wanted Robert Samuels

killed because he had abused Nicole and she wanted insurance money. During a

third conversation, defendant mentioned a failed attempt to kill Robert Samuels.

Mary Samuels also said that she had paid for Robert Samuels’s murder, but that the

murder was done sloppily and that she had not expected it to be done in her house

with blood everywhere.

Even in their first conversation, Gaul came to believe that defendant wanted

his help in killing Bernstein. Gaul testified that it was not until a later

conversation that Mary Samuels expressly asked Gaul for help. She told Gaul that she

wanted Bernstein killed because he was blackmailing her. She also told Gaul that

Bernstein was selling drugs to children.1 Defendant told Gaul that she would pay

for Bernstein to be killed. Mary Samuels spoke with Gaul five to 10 times about

killing Bernstein, discussing payment two to four times.

Prior to Bernstein’s murder, defendant called Gaul. She told Gaul that she

was taking a trip to Cancun and wanted Bernstein murdered before she returned.

Mary Samuels agreed to pay Gaul $5,000 for killing Bernstein. Another form of

payment was that defendant would forgive a loan made to Anne Hambly. To

assist him in killing Bernstein, Gaul solicited Darryl Ray Edwards. Edwards

agreed to kill Bernstein for $5,000.


Gaul testified that his brother had been killed by drug dealers and that he

had been angered by it.


In June 1989, at defendant’s request, Bernstein moved in with Anne

Hambly and Paul Gaul. When he moved out of his apartment, Bernstein told his

apartment manager that he was moving out of town to avoid the police. Bernstein

moved in with Hambly and Gaul because he was afraid the police were closing in

on him.

On June 27, 1989, Paul Gaul and Darryl Ray Edwards killed James

Bernstein. On that morning, Gaul met Edwards at a bar and they started drinking.

Their plan to murder Bernstein involved getting Bernstein to go up to an area near

Frazier Park. Gaul and Edwards planned to tell Bernstein that Edwards knew

some drug dealers in Frazier Park and that Gaul, Edwards, and Bernstein would go

and rob them.

The two men separated, planning to meet at Anne Hambly’s later that day.

Gaul returned to Hambly’s house around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. Edwards arrived

approximately two hours later. Bernstein was at Hambly’s house. Gaul, Edwards,

and Bernstein talked about going to rip off drug dealers. Although he did not

initially agree to the plan, Bernstein was curious and wanted more information.

Subsequently, Gaul, Edwards, and Bernstein left Hambly’s house in defendant’s

car. Gaul was the driver. After approximately 40 minutes, they ended up on an

isolated dirt road. However, it turned out to be a private driveway and several

dogs came running at the car. Edwards told Gaul to immediately get out of the

driveway, so Gaul placed the car in reverse and drove away. About five to 10

minutes later, Edwards yelled “Now” or something similar. Gaul slammed on the

car’s brakes, put the car in park, and turned off the headlights. Edwards grabbed

Bernstein’s neck from behind and began to choke him. Bernstein began to

scream, but Gaul twice hit him in the side of the head or neck to keep him quiet.

Gaul accidentally hit Edwards, which loosened Edwards’s grip on Bernstein.

Bernstein opened the car door and jumped out. Edwards and Gaul got out of the


car and chased after Bernstein. Edwards caught Bernstein and wrestled him to the

ground. Gaul held Bernstein’s legs, while Edwards choked him. Bernstein asked,

“Why?,” and Gaul said that it was because he talked too much. Gaul stopped

holding Bernstein’s legs and joined in with Edwards. Bernstein struggled for three

to five minutes, then stopped. Gaul put his ear to Bernstein’s chest to listen for a

heartbeat, but did not hear one. An autopsy on Bernstein confirmed that he had

been strangled to death.

Gaul and Edwards placed Bernstein’s body in the backseat of the car.

Edwards drove to a dark and isolated area. During the drive to this area, Gaul took

off Bernstein’s belt, which had the name “James” on it, and threw it over a cliff.

Gaul also threw Bernstein’s pager over an embankment.

When Edwards stopped the car, he and Gaul pulled Bernstein’s body out of

the backseat and put it over an embankment. Gaul and Edwards then drove back

to Anne Hambly’s house. Upon returning to Hambly’s house, Gaul, Edwards, and

Hambly discussed what had happened. Gaul and Edwards told Hambly that they

had killed Bernstein.

Anne Hambly made a phone call to defendant, who was in Cancun,

Mexico, at the time, and let her know that Bernstein was dead. Hambly did so by

using a “code” that she and defendant had agreed to. The code involved Hambly’s

calling Mary Samuels to say that Hambly had spoken to her sister. This statement was

a signal to Mary Samuels that Bernstein was dead and that it was safe for defendant to

return from Mexico.

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