In the early morning hours of Sept. 2, 2002, two young men were found executed in a burning Mercedes SUV in an upscale North Hollywood neighborhood. The victims were Michael Tardio, 35, a part-time model and doorman at The Garden of Eden - at the time Hollywood's hottest nightclub - and his friend, 31-year-old Christopher Monson.
On Saturday, Feb. 19 at 10/9c "48 Hours Mystery" correspondent Peter Van Sant investigates this crime, which has become one Hollywood's most sensational and unsolved murder mysteries.
What initially looked like a drug or gang-related murder turned out to be something entirely different, but the crime scene left little forensic evidence to go on. What few leads they had led investigators down an incredible trail from a gorgeous Playboy cover girl to an international prostitution ring to a multimillion-dollar Wall Street Ponzi scheme and eventually to a million dollars in stolen jewels - including an exact $250,000 replica of the diamond and ruby necklace Richard Gere's character gave Julia Roberts in the movie "Pretty Woman."
Seasoned crime reporters and a veteran homicide detective describe this story that even Hollywood couldn't dream up.
In an exclusive interview, retired veteran LAPD Detective Bill Cox, who spent four years on the case, takes Van Sant behind-the-scenes of this cold case, which he says is still solvable. In his investigation, Cox learned that Michael Tardio's girlfriend was none other than Sandy Bentley, who with her twin sister Mandy, were featured on the cover of Playboy Magazine in May 2000. The "Bentley Twins," as they are known, were live-in girlfriends of Hugh Hefner at the famed Playboy Mansion who had minor roles in well-known TV programs like "Sex in the City" and "Two and a Half Men."
Sandy Bentley became a central figure in this case when Detective Cox learned that her past lover was none other than Mark Yagalla, a former Wall Street hedge fund manager who was convicted of running a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. During their relationship, Yagalla showered Bentley with more than $6 million in expensive gifts, including millions in jewelry. But when federal officials came after these lavish items, Bentley secretly kept close to $1 million worth of jewels and furs she was legally required to forfeit. And it was those jewels, police believe, that would ultimately become the motive for these unsolved murders when Tardio set up a million-dollar deal to sell them to a mysterious unidentified buyer.
Featuring exclusive interviews with Yagalla, Hollywood madam Michelle Braun, and infamous South Korean weapons broker Linda Kim, who herself considered purchasing the jewels, "48 Hours Mystery" reveals new details about the case - including the identity of a man who could provide crucial information for investigators, but who has been uncooperative thus far.
Authorities are also hoping viewers may provide a new lead that might solve the murders. The Los Angeles City Council has also announced a $75,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.