Shawnigan man pleads not guilty in U.S. killing of wealthy widow

Bail for Anthony Michael Kubica set at $1 million, court date Jan. 24; California widow, 78, found dead in 1990

A Shawnigan Lake man who was extradited to the U.S. in October has pleaded not guilty to the murder of a wealthy California widow almost 29 years ago.

Anthony Michael Kubica is charged with the murder of 78-year-old Marie Darling, whose decomposing body was discovered in California’s Coachella Valley on June 28, 1990, 24 days after she was last seen alive by a neighbour. Kubica pleaded not guilty at an arraignment hearing in December.

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Kubica, who was extradited to the U.S. in October 2018, is being held at a detention centre in Murrieta, California. His bail has been set at $1 million US.

He is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 24 at the Larson Justice Centre in Indio, California, for a felony settlement conference.

John Hall, public information officer with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, said felony settlement conferences are hearings to ensure both sides have everything they need in the case.

“It’s when a defendant can enter a guilty plea or enter into a plea agreement with our office,” Hall said. “At some point in the future, a date will be set for a preliminary hearing.”

At a preliminary hearing, the judge determines if there is enough evidence for the accused to stand trial.

If the judge decides to go ahead, a trial readiness conference is scheduled, then a trial date is set.

Authorities in California filed the murder charge in May 2014, accusing Kubica of committing the premeditated murder of Darling on June 5, 1990.

U.S. documents revealed Darling’s feet were bound with duct tape and an autopsy found she died of blunt-force trauma to the head.

Three years after the charge was filed, the U.S. government asked Canada’s justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to extradite Kubica to the U.S. to face trial.

Kubica was arrested on a B.C. Supreme Court warrant on Sept. 20, 2017, and has remained in custody ever since.

An extradition hearing took place on March 6, 2018, and the B.C. Supreme Court concluded there was enough evidence to commit Kubica to custody awaiting extradition.

Lawyer Robert Mulligan, who represented Kubica at the hearing, argued that too much time had passed since the crime to ensure a fair trial. He also questioned the three-year delay between laying the charge and the request for extradition.

But one month after the extradition hearing, the B.C. Supreme Court formally committed Kubica to custody to await extradition to the U.S.

In August, Wilson-Raybould authorized his extradition to the U.S., and Kubica was surrendered to California authorities on Oct. 4, 2018.

California Superior court documents made public last year allege that Kubica killed Darling for financial gain.

Kubica and his wife, Connie Jo Kubica, lived in Palm Springs at the time. Investigators believe that Connie Jo Kubica was Darling’s financial adviser and had knowledge of her personal wealth.

Investigators allege Kubica emptied Darling’s bank account and used the money to pay down the mortgage on his Palm Springs home, which was facing foreclosure.

According to bank records, cash deposits made after Darling’s death allowed Kubica to cover all outstanding mortgage payments.

A year after the killing, a lawyer acting for the Darling family discovered that $184,135 US had been transferred from Darling’s Swiss bank account to the eastern Caribbean British territory of Anguilla. The National Bank of Anguilla account that received the money was opened on May 24, 1990, by Kubica, according to California court documents.

Financial records show Kubica went to the Anguilla bank and withdrew $170,000 in two separate transactions.

He asked the bank to transfer the remaining $130,000 to a Royal Bank of Canada account in his name.

Three years after Darling’s slaying, Riverside sheriff’s investigators searched the Kubica home in Scottsdale, Arizona. They seized receipts, including one for the purchase of duct tape in Palm Springs on June 1, 1990. They found documents for travel to Anguilla and banking documents in Kubica’s name relating to the Anguilla account.

In recent years, Kubica was behind a controversial plan to build 500 homes in the Cowichan Valley.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

— with a file from Katie DeRosa

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