Ex-TV chef pleads not guilty in murder-hire plot - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Ex-TV chef pleads not guilty in murder-hire plot

By CHRISTINA HOAG
Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A one-time TV cooking show host faces the possibility of life in prison if he's convicted of trying to hire two homeless men to kill his wife.

Juan-Carlos Cruz, who hosted "Calorie Commando" on the Food Network in 2004, pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and solicitation of murder in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday.

The 48-year-old was arrested Thursday, a week after a homeless man told the Santa Monica Police Department's homeless liaison officers about the alleged solicitation. Police then launched an investigation.

"A lot of people in the homeless community know them and trust them because they have a relationship with them," the city's human services coordinator, Setareh Yavari, said of the police liaison officers. "It doesn't surprise me that they would go to (police) with something like this. There's a sense that they're taken seriously."

Cruz was unshaven and in handcuffs at his arraignment. His lawyer, Shawn Chapman Holley, did not immediately respond to an e-mail from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Cruz is married to attorney Jennifer Campbell. Her lawyer, Blair Berk, had no comment.

Cruz was formerly a pastry chef for Los Angeles' exclusive Hotel Bel-Air where he made desserts for many rich and famous clients. His weight ballooned to 280 pounds as a result of his job, according to his biography in the "Juan-Carlos Cruz Calorie Countdown Cookbook."

He went on Discovery Health Network's "Body Challenge" show and shed 100 pounds. He then landed a show on Food Network, which focused on converting fattening recipes to low-calorie versions. The program ended in 2006.

Food Network said it had no comment because Cruz has not been under contract for a number of years and the network has no current relationship with him.

Superior Court Judge Keith L. Schwartz set Cruz's bail at $2 million, and scheduled a preliminary hearing for June 23.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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