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Murder-for-insurance suspect arrested in Italy

CAGLIARI, Sardinia -- An Ohio businessman arrested in a 3-year- old Glendale insurance-money murder plot may be in jail in Italy for a month until he can be extradicted to California, Italian police said Sunday.

John Barrett Hawkins, 28, was nabbed Thursday aboard a 15-meter luxury catamaran as he sailed into Cannigione, on the northern coast of the Mediterranean island of Sardinia.

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Barrett is the third and final suspect in the 1988 murder of a North Hollywood accountant who was killed and then misidentified as Hawkins's business partner to collect $1.5 million in insurance money.

Authorities say Barrett, the sole beneficiary of the insurance policy, fled with the money. Two alleged accomplices are behind bars.

Melvin Hanson, who was Barrett's partner in an Ohio athletic clothing business, is awaiting trial on charges of murder and conspiracy.

Authorities say Hanson fled after the murder to Mexico, where he underwent plastic surgery and changed his name to Wolfgang von Snowden. He was arrested in 1989 when he tried to return to the United States.

The other member of the murder plot, Dr. Richard Boggs, is awaiting sentencing on his conviction on murder and conspiracy charges in connection with the 1988 slaying of Ellis Greene.

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Prosecutors said that Boggs picked up Greene at the Rawhide bar in North Hollywood, brought him back to his medical office in Glendale, disabled him with a stun gun and then suffocated him.

Both Boggs and Hawkins then identified the body as Hanson's. Boggs reported that he had died of heart trouble.

Investigators said that Hawkins immediately had the body cremated, collected the money and then dropped from sight, leaving his partners- in-fraud without a cent.

Italian officials said Sunday that proceedings to extradict Hawkins would probably take close to a month because of the August holiday period, when the Italian judicial system grinds almost to a halt.

Italian police said that they took Hawkins into custody after receiving an anonymous tip that he was in the area of Sardenia. The FBI and Interpol were also reportedly involved in the case.

Officials are thought to have been aided by U.S. military intelligence at the nearby nuclear submarine base at Maddalena, Sardinia.

Hawkins' Mercedes, the keys still in the ignition, was found abandoned at the Colombus, Ohio, airport sometime what after has been dubbed 'the perfect crime.'

Officials said that Hawkins' plan was blown after an insurance agent asked for a photo and fingerprint of the dead man.

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Italian investigators said that Hawkins showed a false passport when they searched his catamaran, but offered no resistance upon arrest.

Officials believe that Hawkins had been sailing for a month before his capture aboard the Dutch-flagged 'Carpe Diem,' Latin for 'seize the day.'

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