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September 26, 2022

Jury could reach verdict on hit man

A jury of 10 men and two women could reach a verdict today in
the trial of alleged hit man Gustavo Covian of Hollister.
SANTA CLARA – A jury of 10 men and two women could reach a verdict today in the trial of alleged hit man Gustavo Covian of Hollister.

If found guilty of being the hired-gun who murdered former Gilroy restaurant owner Young Kim, Covian could face life in prison without parole.

Kim was last reported seen outside his former Rancho Hills Drive home on Nov. 13, 1998, and the prosecution claims Covian was paid at least $30,000 by Kim’s wife Kyung Kim for the murder.

“The prosecution has the burden of proof in this trial,” Covian’s attorney Thomas Worthington reminded the jury during Friday’s closing arguments. “So even if you think a criminal agency is responsible for Mr. Kim’s disappearance, even if you think it’s a horrible thing that has happened, there is no amount of forensic evidence against my client so there has to be reasonable doubt that my client did it.”

Deputy District Attorney Peter Waite, who had to rely on the testimony of two currently incarcerated felons to show the jury direct evidence against Covian, pleaded with the jury to keep Covian locked up.

“(Worthington) is distorting and misleading you and that’s what he has to do to get off this murderer,” Waite said during his closing arguments. “Witnesses got intimidated, and I’m sure you can understand why; it’s horrifying to testify against a murderer – a hit man – in court.”

After lengthy searches by the Gilroy Police Department of the reported Hollister burial site of Young Kim, no body has ever been recovered; no homicide scene has ever been determined by police either, and forensic evidence tests for hair, skin, clothing fibers and blood on the alleged murder weapon seized from Covian’s Hollister home were negative.

Waite also reminded jurors Friday of his other crucial piece of evidence: A video recorded in the back seat of a Gilroy Police Department patrol car when Gustavo Covian was arrested on April 28, 2000.

“I ask, God, that I will pay in hell, in purgatory, but not here, among men and under the law here,” said Gustavo Covian in Spanish after Gilroy police arrested him at his Hollister home, according to a transcript of a videotape recorded by a camera in a Gilroy Police Department patrol car.

Gustavo Covian, 39; his now ex-wife and mother to three of his children, Maria Covian, 28; Gustavos Covian’s brother, Ignacio Covian, 31; and Kyung Kim, 46, are charged with involvement in the disappearance and alleged murder of 49-year-old Young Kim, Kyung Kim’s husband of 24 years and father of her two children.

All four defendants are facing first-degree murder charges and have been in custody in county jail since 2001. The other defendants will go to trial following Gustavo Covian.

Gustavo Covian was not called to testify in the trial and remained subdued with a stern face throughout the two-week trial except for one outburst when he lashed out at a witness who was on the stand.

Worthington said his client was talking to him during the outburst; Waite said he was intimidating the witness.

One thing both attorneys agree on is that the jury’s perception of witness Adrian Vizcaino will be critical in deciding the verdict.

If his testimony is found truthful, Vizcaino will be released on parole from his current 11-year sentence at San Benito County jail for armed robbery.

Waite defended Vizcaino by referring to his almost six-hour long testimony during the trial in which he stated that Gustavo Covian had bragged to him about killing Young Kim and that he was taken by two of Gustavo Covian’s brothers on different occasions to the alleged former grave site of Young Kim near Vibroras Creek in Hollister. But the body has since been moved, Vizcaino claims, though he doesn’t know the new location.

Witnesses in the trial have stated that both Kyung and Young Kim had been participating in extramarital affairs for a number of years, and that their marriage arranged in their native Korea was deteriorating and abusive. Kyung Kim waited 16 days to report her husband missing and when she did, detectives say, she was reluctant to give information.

Young Kim was last seen entering the garage of his home, according to a cook at the former Gavilan Restaurant at 6120 Monterey Road.

Waite claims the murder was set up by Maria Covian, a waitress at the Kim’s restaurant, and Kyung Kim for a $10,000 to $15,000 contract, and that following the murder Gustavo Covian continued to extort Kyung Kim for up to $100,000. Gustavo and Maria Covian purchased a new home and two new cars between 1998 and 1999, but Worthington claims they were paid for by loans from other members of the Covian family.

Korean-speaking witnesses who appeared at the trial last week verified loaning Kyung Kim $50,000 between July 1998 and March 1999; Worthington said the loans were for the restaurant, and Kyung Kim’s younger sister acknowledged that Kyung had lent at least $10,000 to her father in Korea in 1998.

The defense has pointed to suicide or an extended trip to Mexico or Korea as to Young Kim’s whereabouts, but his children and other family members said he was not suicidal and would not leave his home without notice. His car, car keys, passport, credit cards, suitcase and clothes all remained after his disappearance.

“Mr. Kim is not the type of man who would just be on the beach with his mistress drinking piña coladas right now,” Waite said.

No members of Gustavo Covian’s Hollister-based family have been present at the Santa Clara Courthouse for the trial except as witnesses.

Staff Report
A staff member edited this provided article.

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