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From the archives: 4 charged in L.A. are linked to Southampton producer's death

Roy Radin and his wife, Toni, at their

Roy Radin and his wife, Toni, at their 1981 wedding. They later divorced. Credit: Newsday / Ozier Muhammad

This story was originally published in Newsday on Oct. 4, 1988.

Following a 5 1/2-year-old trail, Los Angeles County homicide detectives have charged three men and a woman with the 1983 murder of Southampton theatrical producer Roy Radin, who was shot to death near Los Angeles after a dispute about his efforts to produce the movie "The Cotton Club."

In a criminal complaint filed yesterday in Los Angeles, the four were charged with luring Radin, 33, from his Los Angeles hotel room the night of May 13 and driving him to a remote area northeast of the city. There, according to the complaint, he was shot at point-blank range in the head and his body dumped in a canyon. His remains were found a month later by a beekeeper.

Assistant District Attorney David Conn said the four were arrested late Sunday and early yesterday in Los Angeles, Maryland and Florida. The complaint describes the killing as a contract murder. One of the suspects, identified in the complaint as Karen Greenberger, of Okeechobee, Fla., allegedly had arranged to meet Radin the night he disappeared to discuss the troubled "Cotton Club" project. While declining to elaborate, Conn said a deal to raise money to produce "The Cotton Club" had soured.

Radin's partner in the venture, Robert Evans, the former president of Paramount Pictures and the producer of such hits as "The Godfather," "Chinatown" and "Marathon Man," "had made an offer for Radin to withdraw, but he had refused," Conn said. "He became an obstacle." Conn said police have questioned Evans about the murder. "He's not been ruled out as a suspect," Conn said.

Evans declined through his attorney to comment on the arrests.

Radin's relatives, who say the passage of time had erased their hopes that his killers ever would be caught, rejoiced yesterday. "Oh my God, oh my God, I don't believe it," said Radin's sister Kate, who lives in Rhode Island.

"I feel so good for my mother and for Roy," she said. Radin's mother, Rene, who lived in Hampton Bays, died last year of cancer. "I don't believe it, after all this time. I want to drink champagne. I am so glad for mommy; she wanted this so badly."

Late yesterday, the two suspects arrested in Los Angeles, identified as William Mentzer and Alex Marti, were being held in Los Angeles County jail pending arraignment. The fourth, Robert Lowe, was arrested in Cumberland, Md., yesterday morning.

Conn said extradition hearings would begin soon to return Lowe and Greenberger to Los Angeles for trial. All four suspects were charged with murder "under special circumstances," which means they face the death penalty if convicted.

The backdrop of Radin's murder was a shadowy world of drugs, drug dealing, and movie production, according to investigative sources and Radin's former associates. In a 1985 interview, Radin's former secretary, Jonathan Lawson, described him as determined to succeed in movie production after years of setting up vaudeville shows featuring performers such as Tiny Tim and Joey Bishop.

In January, 1983, Radin sold his huge oceanfront mansion, "Ocean Castle," in Southampton Village and moved to Los Angeles. The castle had been the scene of a notorious police raid after a television actress, Melonie Haller, said she had been raped and beaten during a wild weekend bash. Haller's claims led to highly publicized criminal charges against Radin; his girlfriend, Toni Fillet, whom he later married and divorced, and a New Jersey businessman, Robert McKeage. Eventually, the grand jury declined to indict Radin and Fillet on rape charges. Radin later pleaded guilty to gun charges and Fillet to drug possession. McKeage was convicted of assault.

The Haller incident behind him, Radin prepared to start over in Los Angeles, Lawson said. At a Hollywood party, he said, Radin met Greenberger, who then was named Elaine Jacobs and living in Miami. Greenberger introduced Radin to Evans, who was eager to find financing for "The Cotton Club" and two other movies.

By May, according to Lawson, whose accounts have been confirmed by police, Radin and Evans had agreed to form a movie production company. But detectives say that Radin and Evans began to quarrel over Greenberger's demand for a share of the company.

According to Los Angeles County Sheriff's detective Carlos Avila, Radin refused to go along, arguing that he believed Greenberger was involved with Miami drug traffickers. After an angry encounter among Radin, Evans and Greenberger in Evans' New York townhouse, Radin flew to Los Angeles vowing not to give up his share of the company, Avila said.

A week later, on the evening of May 13, Avila said Radin was contacted by Greenberger, who asked to meet him for dinner to discuss their problems. That night, according to testimony provided to the detectives by Lawson, Greenberger picked up Radin at his hotel in a limousine. He was never seen again.

Yesterday, Conn said the investigation into the murder showed that Greenberger was driven to the hotel by Lowe. "It is our theory," Conn said, "that Lowe, Mentzer and Marti kidnaped Roy and transported him to the location where he was shot. He was shot by both Marti and Mentzer, whom detectives have described as Greenberger's associates.

"When they pulled away from the hotel, a second limo cut off the limo in which Roy was traveling with Lowe and Greenberger," Conn added. "Roy was taken out and put in the second limo and the three men left with him. Greenberger then drove on to a dinner date."

On the night he disappeared, according to Lawson's 1985 account, Radin had arranged to have a friend, actor Demond Wilson - who had appeared in the television show "Sanford and Son" - ride behind him in another car. Conn declined to say whether Wilson witnessed the kidnaping. Today, Wilson is a popular fundamentalist Christian preacher; he could not be reached for comment. Lawson, who said he feared for his life, moved to Europe after the murder.

Evans released "The Cotton Club," starring Richard Gere and Gregory Hines, a year after Radin's murder.

The investigation into the murder had been stalled, sources said, until 1985 when Radin's mother began writing impassioned letters to law enforcement agencies begging them to find her son's killers. Her letter writing and phone calls caused two Los Angeles County detectives to be assigned to the case, and soon the veil of mystery surrounding the case began to recede.

Quickly, police say, a world of international drug dealing began to take shape as a backdrop to the murder. Last year, a Miami man named Milan Bellechasses was arrested in Florida on a charge of conspiring to import Colombian cocaine into the country from the Bahamas. Detectives have said that at the time Greenberger was living in the Los Angeles area, she was married to Bellechasses, whom they believe was importing cocaine to California. Bellechasses, whom she later divorced, is awaiting trial in Miami.

And last summer, Greenberger's husband, Larry, was publicly identified at the Florida trial of cocaine kingpin Carlos Lehder as Lehder's "numero dos" - his No. 2 distributor in Florida. Larry Greenberger was found dead last month from a gun blast to the head in the same Okeechobee house where Karen Greenberger was arrested Sunday night. The Palm Beach County sheriff's office said yesterday that Karen Greenberger had told police her husband had committed suicide.

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