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RACZ DESCRIBED AS UNCOOPERATIVE DETECTIVE SAYS ACCUSED MAN ASKED TO ACCOMPANY INVESTIGATORS.

Byline: ALEX DOBUZINSKIS

Staff Writer

SAN FERNANDO -- When detectives were zeroing in on him as a suspect in his wife's disappearance, John Racz asked to ride along with them as they investigated, a retired sheriff's sergeant testified Monday.

"He wanted to accompany us as we went out and interviewed witnesses," said Frank Salerno, who was one of the two principal sheriff's homicide detectives working on the case in 1991.

The detectives denied the unusual request from Racz, 61, a Valencia man who had been a sheriff's sergeant, Salerno said. At other times, Racz was uncooperative, and at least once he reached for a detective's pen to keep him from writing notes, Salerno said.

Racz is standing trial on charges that he killed his estranged wife, Ann Mineko Racz, in April 1991. Her body never has been found.

Salerno, a veteran investigator who had interviewed serial killers Richard Ramirez and Kenneth Biachi, also said that when he told Racz his wife was surely dead, he did not get the response he would expect from a husband given such bad news.

Jurors heard an audio clip of the interaction. In it, Racz raised his voice and said "don't say that," and "you don't know that."

Even though Racz wanted to ride along with Salerno and his partner, Louis Danoff, in 1991, he was not helping the investigators find his wife, Salerno said. At one point, Racz asked detectives how long his wife had been gone, even though he claimed to have seen her the week she disappeared, Salerno said.

When detectives served a search warrant at his house in July 1991, Racz reached into an evidence bag and took out a calendar to scratch out some writing, Salerno said. Detectives later analyzed the scrawled-out words -- "hell day" -- pointing to April 18, 1991, the day Ann Racz took her children and moved out.

Salerno testified for most of the day Monday, often turning to the juror's box and speaking directly to them in an almost professorial manner. The only other witness who testified was Jeff Bertrand, a phone company investigator.

Prosecutor John Lewin asked Bertrand about phone calls made to the Valencia home on April 26, 1991. The calls were made minutes apart from payphones.

Racz has told investigators that he talked to his wife by phone that day when she called him collect, and that she said that she was going away. Bertrand said the phone records were consistent with the possibility that Racz could have made the collect call to his own home, using a voice mail message to accept the collect call, after first testing the system by making a couple calls with coins.

But under cross-examination from Philip Israels, Racz's attorney, Bertrand acknowledged another possibility. Someone could have called a couple of times with coins, run out of money and made the collect call, he said.

Prosecutors are trying to make the case that Racz made the collect call to support his story that Ann had called him, even though no one other than him reports speaking to her after April 22, 1991.

alex.dobuzinskis@dailynews.com

(661) 257-5253
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 24, 2007
Words:520
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