It was a complete shock when Athena Valentiny was murdered in cold blood in her own home by someone close to her. Featured in the episode titled ‘The Dog Knows’ of Investigation Discovery’s ‘Caught in the Net,’ this case of the 64-year-old nurse is explored in detail, giving us a glimpse into the investigation that followed the tragic event. It reveals how the investigators followed the digital trail in order to find the culprit and eventually, brought him to justice. If you are intrigued to learn the intricate details of the case, including the identity and current whereabouts of the perpetrator, let’s explore the same together, shall we?
How Did Athena Valentiny Die?
Born around 1954, Athena Ilona Valentiny grew up in a seemingly loving family and had a kind and helpful nature since her early days. After getting married, she gave birth to Levente Lazlo Lazar in the early 1990s and always spoke highly of him. At the time of the murder, she resided in the city of Grover Beach where she owned a condominium at 200 block of South 9th Street as well as a condo in the Woodland Hills which was the source of her rental income.
Speaking of her income, Athena was a licensed vocational nurse at the California Men’s Colony State Prison. But alas, everything soon turned upside down. October 24, 2018, was just another regular day in Athena’s life as she went to work and returned home in the afternoon. Little did she know that it was going to be her last day as in the evening, she was murdered in cold blood. The next day when she did not show up to work, her coworkers asked the police to do a welfare check, upon which they discovered Athena’s body lying in a pool of her own blood in her bedroom.
Upon closer inspection, investigators found Athena’s cause of death to be sharp force trauma to her neck and apparent multiple stab wounds. While having 9th Street blocked off between Rockaway Avenue and Longbranch Avenue, the investigators held interviews with acquaintances, friends, and coworkers of the victim, hoping to get some piece of evidence and testimony from them.
Who Killed Athena Valentiny?
After interrogating some suspects and acquaintances of Athena Valentiny and going through the video evidence, the police found some incriminating evidence against her son, Levente Lazlo Lazar. It showed that he’d driven more than 2,400 miles from his Bloomington apartment to Athena’s condo in Grover Beach just a day before the latter’s body was found. Moreover, when Athena’s will came to light on October 23, 2018, naming Lazar the primary beneficiary of her retirement account, he wasted no time in inquiring about the value of her Woodland Hills condominium.
Soon, Lazar even Googled some murder and probate-related topics, such as whether murderers were eligible for inheritence or not and how the probate functions when things revolve around a killing. Moreover, upon getting directions to Grover Beach, he also bought a prepaid Cricket cell phone under an alias before beginning his journey on October 23, 2018, and reached the next day. According to security footage from Athena’s condo complex, he made his way to Athena’s doorstep in the evening around 6 pm and left her house right before 11 pm.
As he became the prime suspect in the case, Lazar decided to speak with the investigator in the Bloomington police station voluntarily, waiving his Miranda rights. He gave the authorities a seemingly cooked-up version of the events that led to the death of Athena, as he denied even visiting California after January 2018 and having any other phone other than his own. When the investigator showed him some of the evidence against him, he was quick to admit that he purchased a Cricket phone to travel to California to buy marijuana legally.
Lazar claimed that he wanted to give his mother a surprise visit and retrieve a ring from her to give to his girlfriend but couldn’t get in touch with her. After his contradictory statements, the investigators were almost certain that money and her girlfriend were the two driving factors behind his gruesome crime as he was reportedly in a considerable amount of student debt and his pockets were running dry due to bad investments. It was alleged that Lazar did everything to speed up his inheritance and liquidate her assets to pay off the debts before finally marrying his girlfriend. Thus, they arrested him on a single charge of murder in November 2018, while executing several search warrants.
Where is Levente Laszlo Lazar Now?
Almost a year after Athena’s murder, Levante Laszlo Lazar’s trial began on October 2, 2019, during which jurors were shown electronic and physical evidence against him. This trial went on for about three weeks and on October 21, 2019, the jury found the Indiana resident guilty of first-degree murder for the stabbing death of his mother in her Grover Beach condo. Moreover, the jury of six men and six women found two sentencing enhancements for using a deadly weapon as well as for being motivated by monetary gain.
After nearly two months, on December 11, 2019, the 27-year-old Levante Laszlo Lazar was sentenced to life in prison without any possibility of parole for the premeditated murder of his mother, Athena Valentiny. District Attorney Dan Dow said in a statement, “While no amount of punishment will bring our victim Athena Valentiny back, a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole is a just outcome for this senseless murder.” Currently, Lazar is serving his life imprisonment sentence at the California Medical Facility at 1600 California Drive in Vacaville.