Tragic death leaves questions about man who was paying $500,000 fine to Land Conservancy
By Daryl Kelley
A Los Angeles real estate broker found guilty of illegally cutting down more than 300 oak trees on his Baldwin Road ranch near Lake Casitas has been shot to death before he could pay all $500,000 ordered in fines to the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy.
Los Angeles police say William Kaddis, 63, was fatally shot last Wednesday by his brother, Edward, after an argument at the brother’s residence in the mid-Wilshire area.
A S.W.A.T. team arrested the brother after a six-hour standoff, but William Kaddis died of a gunshot wound to the head that night.
Whether the death of Kaddis will stop payment of about $200,000 in fines still due the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy is an open question, said OVLC executive director Fred Fox.
“I wish I knew the answer,” Fox said Tuesday. “I have not yet caught up with the court administrator. We believe the remainder due will be dispersed from the estate, but I cannot confirm that at this point.”
Even with an interruption in the $5,000-a-month payments, the conservancy will suffer no crimp in its financing, Fox said, because the Kaddis money was always placed in a special fund for oak tree restoration.
“It does not support our general fund at all,” Fox said. So the agency’s $353,000 annual operations budget will not be affected, he said.
Kaddis became notorious locally in 2001, when he bulldozed 301 coastal live oaks on his 44-acre ranch and was charged with illegally clearing his property.
During a 2002 trial, the real estate broker argued that he’d been framed by neighbors and county officials, who didn’t like him because he was a native of Egypt. But he was convicted on 11 criminal counts involving the destruction of the trees.
In a failed appeal, Kaddis also argued his land was not subject to state regulation, since he could trace its ownership to the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
A judge found that Kaddis fabricated a hate letter supposedly left on his property, refused to cooperate with environmental inspectors, and acted like “the neighbor from hell.”
Kaddis was placed on probation for 60 months, ordered to pay $500,000 for an oak tree restoration program and sentenced to 210 days in jail. In 2004, a judge added 45 more days because Kaddis failed to pay the fine.
The $500,000 penalty was the court’s answer to making restitution to the people of the Ojai Valley, Linda Ash, the assistant Ventura County counsel on the six-year-long case, said then.
Ash said the county felt the Land Conservancy would make the best use of the funds and had a demonstrated history of protecting oak trees.
The county felt that if Kaddis were simply ordered to replant the trees, there was no guarantee he would care for them, she said. This way the funds would be used by the conservancy to purchase oak habitat or reforestation in the valley.
Fox said Kaddis had been making double payments with interest in recent years to make up for missed payments. Fox said he had never met Kaddis, nor spoken with him about how the restitution would be used.
The conservancy did not apply to the court for the restitution, but was simply notified by the judge that the conservancy had been chosen as a worthy recipient, Fox said.
Police said William Kaddis was killed last week after he came to his brother’s residence at the request of a family member, who said the brother was ill. William Kaddis owned the house in which his brother was living, police said.
Speaking through the metal screen door, the brothers got into an argument, resulting in several gunshots through the door by the brother, police said.
When police arrived, they were able to help paramedics take William Kaddis out of the line of his brother’s fire, police said, but he died later at a nearby hospital.