murdering 38-year-old Pegye Bechler by throwing her overboard during a
He has pleaded not guilty, saying that a rogue wave pushed his wife
off the speedboat she was driving while towing him on a boogie board.
New said that when she asked Bechler how he knew his wife was not
rescued elsewhere or is possibly suffering from amnesia, he simply
answered: "I know. I was there."
Orange County Sheriff's investigators wired New with a recording
device in October 1999 to tape conversations she had with Bechler while
they were eating in a restaurant. Bechler reportedly confessed to killing
his wife during their conversations. Police arrested Bechler days after
the surreptitious recordings.
New is now married and eight months pregnant. The bikini model and
aspiring actress made her court appearance Monday dressed conservatively
in a long, black skirt, a dark blue blouse and a black blazer.
She told the court she "was attracted to Eric when I saw him" at a
trade fair in October 1997. New was hired by Bechler's friend to work as
a model in his booth. They dated that same day, and she spent the night
in Bechler's Cliffside home, she said.
"He told me his wife died in an accident, and he had three kids," said
New, who has two children of her own. "I was attracted to him. I felt
really sad for him."
New said for the next few months she stayed with Bechler and helped to
care for his children. He, in turn, helped build a Web site for her, New
said. The Bechler children were there with them on and off, and often
visited Pegye's family in New Mexico, she added.
Bechler also took her on luxury cruises -- three in the first three or
four months of their relationship, she said. Their first cruise, New
recalled, was to the Caribbean.
"We just played," she said. "We just had a lot of fun, really."
New is expected to return to the witness stand today.
The prosecution on Monday also called witnesses who worked at Balboa
Boat Rental when Bechler rented the 18-foot Seaswirl in 1997 for the
couple's fifth wedding anniversary celebration.
Cory Weber, who checked the Bechlers' boat before they drove off into
the water, said he did not see a boogie board or rope during his routine
"We have a policy against boogie boards and towing," he said. "If I'd
seen it, we would have kept it in our office for them to pick up after
they returned the boat. There's no way we'd allow that on the boat."
Pegye Bechler's mother, June Marshall, testified that her daughter was
an expert triathlete who several times won an annual competition in her
hometown of Dexter, N.M.
"Yes, she was very strong," Marshall said. "She competed in that
triathlon for 15 years."