Westminster Police DNA match in cold case leads to murder conviction
It all came down to a shoelace.
When Westminster Police Department Det. James Wilson was assigned to homicide in 2010, he inherited a cold case dating back to 2004.
Ariet Girgis, 55, was killed in her Westminster home while the younger of her two sons, Ryan, then 17, was tied up.
While police suspected the involvement of Magdi Girgis, Ariet’s husband, there wasn’t enough evidence at that point.
“It was definitely a murder-for-hire,” Wilson said, adding that nothing was taken from the home to signal that it was a robbery and there were no signs of forced entry.
The same year Wilson was assigned to the case, Ariet’s older son, Richard, reached out to him.
“It was a cold case at that point,” Wilson said.
But with a fresh set of eyes, Wilson started looking over the case file. Ryan had reported to police that the man who tied him up took off his gloves to remove the boy’s shoelace from his shoe and use that to tie him. Because Wilson understood how much DNA technology had advanced, he requested that the OC Crime Lab test a few items for DNA – the shoelace among them.
“I felt the shoestring was our best bet,” Wilson said.
He was right.
A convicted felon with gang ties, Anthony Edward Bridget, came up as a match in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) for the DNA scraped off the shoelace.
“He had a very long rap sheet,” Wilson said.
But police suspected that Bridget didn’t act alone. And they still suspected Magdi’s involvement. During an interagency sting, undercover officers contacted Magdi asking for “hush money” for the killing of his wife. After negotiating a price, Magdi paid up.
“At which point, we arrested him,” Wilson said.
During the sting, Bridget was already in police custody in Northern California due to a parole violation.
In February 2013, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office filed charges on both suspects.
In 2014, Magdi was found guilty of murder and conspiracy, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In April of this year, Bridget was found guilty of special circumstances murder, false imprisonment, and conspiracy. He is scheduled to be sentenced in June and faces a possible life in prison without parole sentence.
Wilson said that at the time of Ariet’s murder, the couple was going through a bad divorce. Police and prosecutors believed Magdi planned Ariet’s killing for fear of losing half of his financial assets in a divorce, as well as his job as a respiratory therapist. Magdi was under suspicion for domestic violence against Ariet at the time of the divorce.
“Money meant everything to this guy,” Wilson said.
But the case still isn’t closed. According to Wilson, at least two others may have been involved in Ariet’s murder – the person who committed the killing and a possible middleman involved in arranging it.
The case has garnered much attention. Wilson said the case was on Dateline NBC, Deadline, and footage has been shot for an episode of Crime Watch Daily.
“We don’t have a lot of homicides in our city,” he said.