PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA

Essentials

Denham murder trial set to begin

By From page A5 | December 19, 2010

In a matter of weeks, the trial for suspected killer Nicholas James Denham will commence in an El Dorado County courthouse.

Denham and defense attorney James Clark appeared before Superior Court Judge James R. Wagoner at a Friday morning readiness conference, where Clark said he was prepared to go to trial.

Denham, 30, is accused of murdering 33-year-old Cody Ludden in June 2008. Denham was reportedly recruited by co-defendant Christine Varozza, 58, to beat Ludden up after the two had an argument at Ludden’s son’s birthday party.

Ludden and Varozza’s daughter, Jennifer Casio, had an on-again, off-again relationship, attorneys have said.

Denham is alleged to have carried out Varozza’s request before taking Ludden to the Mosquito Road bridge north of Placerville and pushing him off.

Ludden’s body was found by hikers on June 10, 2008.

Co-defendant Varozza pleaded guilty in March to voluntary manslaughter. She could be called as a witness during Denham’s trial.

Varozza’s attorney, Dain Weiner, previously said his client never wanted Ludden dead.

“Nobody is claiming she killed Cody,” he said. “I don’t think she had any intention of that happening. The prosecution is proceeding on the theory she was an aider and abettor.”

Varozza’s daughter also became entangled with the law as a result of the case.

In April 2009, Casio pleaded guilty to accessory to Ludden’s murder after she admitted to withholding information from authorities.

Erik Davenport, Casio’s attorney, said his client intentionally misled investigators to protect her children.

“Jennifer’s mother told her she’d go to jail and her children would have nobody if she said anything,” said Davenport. “It was the fear of losing her children.”

E-mail Jim Ratajczak at [email protected] or call 530-344-5071.

Jim Ratajczak

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