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Death Sentence Recommended for Woman Who Paid for Two Murder Plots

July 22, 1994

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A jury has recommended the death penalty for a woman who arranged the murders of both her husband and the man who killed him.

Mary Ellen Samuels, 45, will be sentenced Sept. 16. The jury returned its recommendation Thursday.

Samuels was convicted July 1 on two counts of murder, solicitation for murder and conspiracy.

Authorities said she hired reputed drug dealer James Bernstein to murder her 40-year-old husband, Robert, who worked as an assistant cameraman on the films ″Lethal Weapon″ and ″Heaven Can Wait.″ He was shot in the back of the head Dec. 8, 1988 at his Northridge home.

Samuels then hired two men who beat and strangled Bernstein in 1989.

Paul Gaul and Darryl Edwards pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for Bernstein’s killing and are serving prison terms of 15 years to life. They testified against Samuels.

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