Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Kaushal Niroula and The Gay Grifters

The Murder

Clifford Lambert
Clifford Lambert
At some point, Kaushal Niroula and David Replogle seem to have considered a lawsuit that would have accused Clifford Lambert of sexually assaulting Niroula. The group's next plan, investigators say, was to get the house and cash by kidnapping Lambert. Detective Frank Browning has testified that his investigations discovered that the men realized that a living Lambert could cause trouble by contesting the forged power of attorney, so Niroula then hired Craig McCarthy, 29, a San Francisco bartender and former Marine, to murder him.

That plan went awry.

Craig McCarthy
Craig McCarthy
Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Lisa DiMaria says McCarthy was supposed to kill Lambert in his garage on December 4 but didn't. Later, McCarthy reenacted events for Detective Browning: McCarthy showed him how he and Miguel Bustamante had waited for Lambert in the garage. McCarthy had hidden in a crawl space with an ice pick, and Bustamante had hidden in Lambert's Rolls-Royce with a pair of garden shears. When Lambert pulled into the garage in his Mercedes, parked and headed into his house, the would-be killers simply didn't do anything.

McCarthy told Browning he was waiting for Bustamante to act first. They got another chance two days later, and, if authorities are correct, Bustamante acted this time.

DiMaria alleges that Niroula made plans to have cocktails at Lambert's house December 6. Once there, he unlocked a door for Bustamante and McCarthy. She says Bustamante and McCarthy sneaked in, grabbed knives from the kitchen, then attacked a surprised Lambert. According to her account, McCarthy grabbed Lambert, but Bustamante ordered McCarthy to stand aside and let him kill him. Bustamante's first strike broke the knife; he grabbed the other knife and stabbed Lambert several more times until he died.

Miguel Bustamante
Miguel Bustamante
McCarthy took the dead man's wallet. Then they stuffed Lambert's body in the trunk of the Mercedes, dropped Niroula off at his hotel so he could make his flight to San Francisco, and went to Home Depot for a shovel. Browning says McCarthy led investigators to a water tower in Fontane where he said they'd buried Lambert, but investigators were unable to find a body.

Investigators say they have plenty of proof without the corpse. Michael Jeandron of the District Attorney's Office contends his office has enough evidence to convict the men of murder.

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