Police arrest son, wife of slain 83-year-old man

Marcella Sandoval, 77, and Jean-Joseph Danger Le Chiffre, 55, are under suspicion of a slaying at a Colorado Springs home in July.

A Colorado Springs man who legally adopted the name of a James Bond villain fatally beat his 83-year-old father with a baseball bat and tried to pin it on his ailing mother, police alleged in court Friday.

Jean-Joseph Danger Le Chiffre — formerly known as Patrick Joseph Sandoval — appeared for a half-day hearing in 4th Judicial District Court that revealed an alleged mother-son conspiracy culminating in the slaying of Gilbert Sandoval.

At some point before the killing, the defendant, a 55-year-old former attorney, legally changed his name to that of Bond’s foil in “Casino Royale,” Ian Fleming’s debut novel in the spy series, police said in explaining his unusual name.

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Detectives alleged that Le Chiffre was angry after learning he had been cut out of his father’s will. Over the course of several months, he and Marcella Sandoval, 78, refined a plan for Le Chiffre to kill him and for his mother to claim she did it in self-defense, making her the beneficiary of his wealth, which she pledged to share with her son.

On July 22, police say, they followed through. Marcella Sandoval, who was estranged from her husband, lured him to a home the couple owned in the 500 block of Custer Avenue, where Le Chiffre fatally ambushed him in the basement, authorities said.

Beside the slain man’s body was a cracked and bloodstained Louisville Slugger, according to police testimony.

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On the day of the killing, Marcella Sandoval stuck with the story that she was the killer, but she later balked and agreed to become a witness for the state, police said.

In an August court deposition, she described how the plan took shape at the beginning of “COVID times” and evolved until she and her son met a final time for planning the day before the attack. Their plan was for her to say her husband came at her with a knife. 

“She was tired of how Gilbert treated her, was part of it, and the other part was financial — that Mr. Le Chiffre had been cut out of the will,” said detective Marcus Lehmkuhl, in testimony summarizing her account to police.

She told how Le Chiffre was hiding in the house and how she ran her hand across the keys of a piano as a signal to him before she sent her husband into the basement, as they had planned.

After beating the victim, Le Chiffre used a knife to cut her hands and arm, before leaving it next to the body.

Among the obvious flaws in Marcella Sandoval’s initial story was her frail health, prosecutors said.  

The woman was so unsteady on the day of the slaying that two officers had to escort her around her house to prevent her from falling, according to Lehmkuhl.

And although she and her son initially plotted to shoot Gilbert Sandoval, she ruled out the idea, saying she was too weak to pull the trigger.

“If you can’t shoot a gun, you don’t have the physical strength to swing a bat and kill somebody,” said prosecutor Amy Fitch in asking the judge to bind over the case for trial.

Public defenders representing Le Chiffre suggested her account was manipulated by the defendant's brother, former Colorado Springs Police Officer Mark Sandoval, in what they characterized as a fight over family finances. Mark Sandoval told police that money was a factor only for his brother, who he believed coerced his mother in his hunt for his inheritance.

The defense also argued that no physical evidence ties Le Chiffre to the scene, although detectives said physical evidence corroborated Marcella Sandoval’s account, explaining the cuts to her hands and the knife next to the body, for example. Le Chiffre's attorneys also disputed the motive, contending he still had a means to claim a share of his father's inheritance.  

Marcella and Gilbert Sandoval own numerous homes in Colorado Springs, police said. Although their net worth wasn’t disclosed, prosecutors cited Le Chiffre’s concerns that his father had improperly drained $1.5 million from a retirement account belonging partly to his mother, one of several financial accounts to which she had access.

At the hearing’s conclusion, Judge Chad Miller ordered the defendant held without bond for trial on charges including first-degree murder, ruling that evidence against him is strong enough that he is likely to be convicted.

Le Chiffre pleaded not guilty to all counts. He is scheduled to return to court Wednesday for the setting of his trial.

In exchange for her cooperation, including testimony against her husband at trial, Marcella Sandoval was charged with accessory to murder. She pleaded guilty in November and was sentenced March 3 to two years on probation, court records show.

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