Juan-Carlos Cruz, Ex-Food Network Chef, Pleads No Contest in Plot to Murder Wife

Juan-Carlos Cruz
Juan-Carlos Cruz (CBS)

LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) Former Food Network chef Juan-Carlos Cruz pleaded no contest Tuesday to hiring two homeless men to kill his wife.

The "Calorie Commando" host appeared in Los Angeles County Superior Court and pleaded no contest to one count of solicitation of murder. Cruz made the plea as a preliminary hearing was scheduled to begin.

Prosecutors will dismiss a remaining count of attempted murder, according to a statement from the county district attorney's office.

Cruz was arrested in May by Santa Monica police after a homeless man reported he had been offered $500 to kill Cruz's wife Jennifer L. Campbell, a 47-year-old attorney.

Police set up a sting operation and videotaped him meeting with several homeless men, driving one to his apartment, and showing him how to get inside the building, prosecutors said.

Since the case was resolved before trial, a motive has never been disclosed by prosecutors, but the plea shocked neighbors and co-workers who told The Los Angeles Times that Cruz was a devout churchgoer, community volunteer and doting husband.

Cruz, 48, was formerly a pastry chef for Los Angeles' exclusive Hotel Bel-Air. His weight ballooned to 280 pounds as a result of his job, and he went on Discovery Health Network's "Body Challenge" show and shed 100 pounds. He then landed the "Calorie Commando" show on Food Network, in which he converted fattening recipes to low-calorie versions.

The show ended in 2006.

Cruz now faces nine years in state prison when he is sentenced on Dec. 13.

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