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PAIR HELD IN 1998 DEATH WIDOW FACING MURDER CHARGE.

Byline: Dana Bartholomew Staff Writer

CHATSWORTH - His Mercedes-Benz license plate reads ``QWTWRKN.'' Her Dodge Durango SUV reads ``KR8WLTH.'' Both live in a $1.1 million home behind a locked community gate.

And now the couple with the license monikers ``quit working'' and ``create wealth'' face the death penalty if convicted of conspiring to shoot a Los Angeles Unified school policeman - the woman's former husband and father of her child - for $1.114 million in life insurance money.

Michael Fletcher, 43, and his wife Jennifer Fletcher, 32, of Chatsworth, are scheduled to be arraigned in San Fernando Superior Court on Monday on six counts of murder, conspiracy and insurance fraud in the 1998 shooting of Officer Joel Andrew Shanbrom.

Special charges of lying in wait and murder for financial gain allow for a possible death penalty.

``It's a lot of investigative work that still continues,'' said Los Angeles homicide detective Thomas Matthews. ``It took awhile. We'll leave it up to the courts.''

Michael Fletcher, an executive marketing director for World Finance Group, a life insurance and financial consulting firm, was arrested Thursday in the parking lot of his Chatsworth office.

Jennifer Fletcher, 8 1/2 months pregnant and the mother of one child, surrendered to police in the presence of her lawyer Thursday afternoon at San Fernando Superior Court.

They were being held without bail in Los Angeles County jail.

While Michael Fletcher had yet to hire an attorney Friday, his wife's lawyer said the allegations were spurious.

``The prosecutor's case is flimsy and based upon mere speculation, innuendo and guesswork: She is innocent and is the victim of a misdirected prosecution,'' said Los Angeles lawyer Mark Werksman.

``They've taken her children away, locked her up and accused her of a heinous crime without yet coming forth with a shred of evidence.''

The district attorney's complaint and sources close to the investigation of Shanbrom's slaying tell a different story.

On March 18, 1998, Shanbrom's body was found by his mother-in-law in the den of his Northridge home slumped on the couch in front of the TV, killed by a single bullet to his head.

Diane Bates, mother of Jennifer Shanbrom, later Jennifer Fletcher, checked his pulse and ran upstairs to find her daughter and her 3-year-old grandson hiding in a bathroom shower.

Jennifer Shanbrom later told her sister and police detectives she'd heard ``muddled talking,'' a commotion and a gunshot about 9:30 p.m.

``They heard noise. He likes to watch the cop shows. She thought it was the TV,'' her sister, Judy Carlson, had said. Jennifer Shanbrom soon realized intruders might come upstairs.

Family members reported that Shanbrom's gun and $1,500 in cash were the only things missing.

Joel Andrew Shanbrom, 32, a five-year veteran, earned $50,216 a year patrolling schools in the Verdugo Hills area.

His wife of seven years worked at a dental office. Both moonlighted selling life insurance.

At a business convention with his brother, Joel Shanbrom met Fletcher at a booth selling Primerica insurance, a program that promised riches by recruiting new members.

The Shanbroms jumped on board. Seven months before Joel Shanbrom was killed, Fletcher and the Shanbroms took out a $500,000 life insurance policy ``they knew contained false information,'' the complaint said.

A month before her husband was killed, Jennifer Shanbrom reinstated a $300,000 policy on her husband without his knowledge, the complaint added.

With Fletcher acting as her agent, Jennifer Shanbrom filed to collect $800,000 in life insurance claim on the policies, which is still pending. She did collect a $314,000 on an LAUSD policy, according to the complaint.

Jennifer Shanbrom also filed a workers' compensation claim with the school district on grounds she heard her husband ``identify himself as a police officer just prior to his being shot,'' the claim reported.

The school district denied her claim.

Deputy District Attorney Jeff Jonas declined to discuss the case in detail, he did make one comment.

``There's still $800,000 she's still attempting to collect (from the insurance companies),'' Jonas said. ``Plus, she attempted to get workers' compensation benefits as a result of this by claiming her husband worked the night of the killing - he was in his sweats watching TV.''

On the night of the killing, the complaint says Jennifer Shanbrom, her mother and Fletcher discussed alibis.

Prosecutors did not state whether Bates will be charged with any crime.

Joel Shanbrom's widow and Fletcher later married and live in the 9400 block of Fox Hill Lane in one of the Valley's few gated communities.

Neighbors were shocked to learn of their arrests.

``They have parties often,'' said Michelle Mun, 17, who also acted as an interpreter for her mother. ``We wouldn't expect anything like that from them. They would always say hi.

``They sent us a Christmas card with their picture on it.''

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Photo:

A family photo shows policeman Joel Shanbrom, wife Jennifer, and son Jacob. His wife has been arrested in his death.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 3, 2002
Words:831
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