LOS ANGELES (CBS)  — James M. Fayed was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder and conspiracy for masterminding his estranged wife’s stabbing death in a Century City parking garage nearly three years ago.

The Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated about two days before rendering its verdict.

Judge Kathleen Kennedy ordered jurors to return to court Friday for the start of the trial’s penalty phase. They will be asked to recommend whether the 48-year-old Ventura County man should be sentenced to death or face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Along with the murder and conspiracy charges, jurors found true the special circumstance allegations of murder while lying in wait and murder for financial gain.

Pamela Fayed, 44, was attacked from behind and stabbed 13 times in a parking garage at Watt Tower on July 28, 2008. She and her estranged husband had just met with their criminal attorneys as a result of a federal investigation into the couple’s gold-trading business.

Three other men charged in Pamela Fayed’s killing are awaiting trial separately.

The alleged killer, Steven Vicente Simmons, 22; the alleged getaway driver, Jose Luis Moya, 51; and the alleged lookout, Gabriel Jay Marquez, 46; each face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.

“This is a very sad and tragic day for the Fayed family,” one of Fayed’s attorneys, Mark Werksman, told reporters outside court. “Now Jim Fayed stands convicted of a crime he insists he didn’t commit.”

Pamela Fayed’s brother, Scott Goudie, said outside court that “it has been a roller-coaster of emotion from day to day.” The victim’s family has been in court throughout the trial, with family members expected to be called to testify during the trial’s next phase about the impact of her death.

During the trial, Deputy District Attorney Eric Harmon told jurors that Fayed chose to “squander that good life” that he was living “because money and gold enslaved him.”

“He gave it all up because he was greedy,” the prosecutor told jurors.

The prosecution contended that Fayed contracted the hit on his estranged wife because he believed the mother of two would cooperate with federal investigators in the probe into their business and because he was involved in a bitter divorce in which she could have ended up getting half of the couple’s marital assets.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

  1. bletch says:

    Funny how they say he was a “mastermind”, if he was, would he have been caught?!?

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