When it comes to murder mysteries, many complicated elements are often hard to uncover. Such was the case for the killings of Peter Kovach and Ted Gould in Southern California. In this particular instance, the investigation seemed to hit a dead end with few leads to work on until a chance encounter in another state revealed facts that could have been straight out of a movie. The details of what happened are covered extensively in CNBC’s ‘Blood & Money’ season 1 episode 4, titled ‘A College Kingpin’s Greed.’ For those interested in learning more about this shocking double murder and the killer’s identity, here is what we know about the same!
How Did Peter Kovach and Ted Gould Die?
In October 1994, Ted Gould was a relatively new employee of Galleria Telecom in Torrance, California. The establishment was co-owned by Peter Kovach and RJ Panah, as the two had formed a good friendship. On October 26, 1994, Ted’s best friend, Paul Poduska, visited him at his workplace to check out the place. However, when Paul reached his destination, he could find no one in the store.
Worried about what was happening, Paul’s worries were further compounded upon RJ’s arrival, who had come in to check on his shop. According to the store owner, he was driving by at about 11 PM when he noticed all the lights were on, which he found unusual. Upon meeting up with Paul and realizing that Peter and Ted’s cars were still outside the store, Panah decided to call the police and investigate the disappearance of two friends.
The law enforcement could not help but notice that nothing had been taken from the store itself, and there was no indication to suggest that anything violent had happened. Upon seeing that the cameras in the store had been turned upward, the investigators asked Panah about the same, yet he admitted that the recording devices were not functioning. Naturally, the disappearance of the two men baffled the authorities, and they needed more leads to check up on.
On October 31, 1994, two bodies were discovered in San Diego county’s Lawndale Industrial Park. Bloated and severely damaged, the autopsy indicated signs of strangulation, prompting investigators to investigate who killed the two men and why the bodies were in San Diego. The news broke Paul’s heart and was equally devastating for Peter’s mother, and sister could hardly believe what had happened.
Who Killed Peter Kovach and Ted Gould?
The mystery behind the double murder of Peter Kovach and Ted Gould started unraveling in New York. While undertaking a minor operation, agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) foiled a kidnapping attempt they saw happening nearby. The potential victim of the case was Bruce Wolosky, who stated that he was involved in the drug business but was ready to share crucial information in exchange for safety. He then shared how his co-workers had killed a man named Peter Kovach.
This information crucially helped the California investigators. At the time, the California police had been investigating the attempted robbery seemingly foiled by the police close to Galleria Telecom. The people involved were apparently looking for the store. Kenneth “Kenny” Friedman, Ruben Hernandez, and Juan Galindo were arrested and charged with attempted robbery. Yet, they were bailed out the very next day by Gary Friedman, a defense lawyer, and Kenny’s brother.
Based on the information shared by Wolosky and the investigation done by law enforcement, a picture emerged of precisely what happened. As it turns out, Peter had been involved in the drug trafficking business since college and worked alongside a man named Howard Bloomgarden. Their interstate business involved the victim working from California, helping bring in the narcotics from Mexico, and helping their transportation to locations within the US.
However, the authorities seized one of Peter and Howard’s shipments in Illinois on its way to Florida. The 800 pounds of marijuana captured were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. This incident and Howard’s paranoia made him suspicious of Peter’s actions. At the time, he was doing business with Gary Friedman and enlisted the help of his brother Kenny and a few others to track down Peter and find out the answers he wanted.
According to Ruben Hernandez, the initial plan was to talk to Peter after catching him when he was out of the store, yet it did not seem to work. This prompted them to ambush and kidnap him. As for Ted Gould, Hernandez alleged that Peter had requested that the three men not hurt his co-worker. After capturing the two men, the trio made use of their contact with Gus Malave in San Diego and took them to a motel in Lawndale, California.
After reaching their destination, Kenny apparently had Howard on the phone, and the latter talked to Peter for a while and then to Kenny. After this, Kenny allegedly started to beat Peter as Hernandez held the man down. Nonetheless, the latter stated that he did not realize Kenny was strangling Peter. When asked why he did so, the Friedman brother claimed that Howard had asked him to do so. When Peter died, Ted was also strangled to death by Kenny.
Kenneth “Kenny” Friedman, Ruben Hernandez, Juan Galindo, Gary Friedman, and Gus Malave were convicted on federal racketeering charges for their crimes. Besides, Howard pled guilty to financing the kidnappings and ordering the killings over the phone as a part of his plea agreement. The case was also tried in the Californian courts though the prosecution had to overcome many obstacles. In May 2014, Howard was convicted for both murders.
As for the people involved with the crime, Kenny Friedman was found dead in August 2012 on San Quentin’s Death Row of what the authorities stated was a suicide. Gary was given three life sentences by the federal courts for his actions, whereas Hernandez, Galindo, and Malave received lighter sentences after they pled guilty. Initially issued a 33-year sentence by the federal authorities, Howard was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole by the Californian judicial system in 2016. He is currently incarcerated at the USP Marion in Illinois.