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Murder-for-hire begins to unfold

It may sound like a Hollywood tale, but this is a local story,
and the next chapters will begin unfolding today.
GILROY – An alleged mob-style hit, murder for cash, an arranged marriage of 24 years violently collapsing and rumors of numerous sexual affairs – it may sound like a Hollywood tale, but this is a local story, and the next chapters will begin unfolding today.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Hugh Mullins will likely grant a continuance this afternoon in San Jose to delay the Nov. 4 trial of four defendants allegedly involved in a 1998 murder-for-hire plot resulting in the disappearance of a Gilroy restaurant owner.

Gustavo Covian, 39, Maria Covian, 28, Ignacio Covian, 31 and Kyung Kim, 46, are all charged with involvement in the disappearance and suspected murder of 49-year-old Young Kim, Kyung Kim’s husband of 24 years and owner of the former Gavilan Restaurant at 6120 Monterey Road. If convicted of the murder charges, the defendants could face life in prison without parole.

All four defendants have plead not guilty and have remained in county jail without the possibility of bail since being arraigned in December 2001. Now at least two of their attorneys have asked for the judge to push the trial date back for various reasons, and one attorney is pushing for seperate trials for the defendants.

“We need time to continue to investigate because we are still collecting more evidence every day,” said Thomas Worthington, the attorney of alleged trigger man Gustavo Covian. “My request will be to delay the trial for two weeks, but I’ve heard from another defendant’s attorney that he will ask it to be delayed until Dec. 9.

“I’ve also asked for a severance – meaning that all the defendants be tried seperately … A trial (with four defendants) becomes very complicated, evidence gets mixed and it confuses the jury.”

Because of new photographic evidence recently provided to the defense attorney, and a conflict of schedule with Kyung Kim’s lawyer, the trial will likely be pushed back at least two weeks without much objection, said Peter Waite, the deputy district attorney prosecuting the trial.

But Waite does plan to object to the severance hearing planned for Friday afternoon in San Jose.

“There’s no way we will agree to give Gustavo Covian or any defendant (a solo trial),” Waite said. “We might work something out to seperate the men and women, but more than two trials will be a waste of time and money.”

When the trial does begin, a grand jury selected from thoughout the county will try to sort out exactly what happened to Young Kim, who according to court documents was last seen entering his former Gilroy home in the 9400 block of Rancho Hills Drive in November 1998. Following his dissapearance, Kyung Kim waited 16 days to report her husband missing to Gilroy police.

The Kim’s marriage that was arranged by Young Kim’s family in the couple’s native Korea had been steadily dissovling at the time of Young Kim’s dissapearance. Both Young and Kyung had been romantically involved with other people for a period of time, and police found divorce papers in Young Kim’s green Mitsubitshi 3000 glove compartment after his disappearance, according to a 400-page court document released after the arraignment hearing last December.

A week before her husband’s disappearance, Kyung Kim allegedly approached Maria Covian, a waitress at the Kim’s restaurant, about hiring someone to kill her husband. Maria said she knew people who could do the job, but that it would cost between $10,000 and $15,000.

Gilroy police now believe those people were Maria’s husband whom she lived with in Hollister at the time, Gustavio Covian, and his brother, Ignacio Covian. A source close to Gustavio Covian interviewed by police also verifies in court documents that on the night Young Kim was last seen he was kidnapped from his Gilroy home by the two Covian brothers before being transfered to Gustavio Covian’s Hollister home, murdred and buried in a nearby creek.

The source said that Gustavo Covian boasted of firing one single shot to the side of Young Kim’s head that killed him immediately. The body was then wrapped in plastic and the blood cleaned with bedsheets before the body was transfered from the Covian’s former Fairiew Road home to Vibroras Creek, the source said.

Police have searched the creek at least four times since 1999 – sometimes with dogs – but have yet to find a body.

Following the alleged murder, Gustavo Covian met with Kyung Kim at least four times at the Gilroy Premium Outlets parking lot to demand more money for the murder – threatening the lives of her children if not paid up to $100,000, according to the documents.

“I shot your husband in the head and I buried his body. Now you owe me $20,000. And if you don’t give it to me, I’ll kill your kids,” Gustavo Covian said to Kyung Kim in their first meeting, according to court transcripts.

In May of 2000, Maria Covian agreed to secretly meet with a Gilroy detective in Fremont, at which time she allegedly disclosed that her husband told her of the murder. Maria Covian has since filed for a divorce from her husband.