LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former producer of the reality TV show "Survivor" was ordered Tuesday to be returned to Mexico to stand trial in the killing of his wife while the couple was on a luxury vacation with their young children to repair their troubled marriage.
However, the ruling was unlikely to bring a swift resolution to the case that has played out on both sides of the border since Monica Beresford-Redman's naked body was found in a sewer cistern at a swank Cancun resort in April 2010.
Bruce Beresford-Redman's attorney, Richard Hirsch, said he would appeal, and federal prosecutors said it could take months or even a year before the Emmy-nominated producer might be sent to Mexico.
Beresford-Redman has been jailed since November. His attorneys have repeatedly criticized Mexico's investigation and argued he was under no obligation to remain in Cancun while they finalized their case.
After nearly two hours of arguments, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Chooljian said Tuesday the evidence presented by prosecutors supported Mexico's aggravated homicide charge, which could send the producer to prison for 12 to 30 years if he is convicted.
Hirsch had urged the court to use common sense and said there were numerous inconsistencies in the Mexican investigation, including the time and place of death, and whether human blood was found in the family's hotel room.
"Before the court sends an American citizen to Mexico, it should require more than what the government has shown here," Hirsch said.
Chooljian, however, said she had considered all the evidence and determined there was probable cause to determine Beresford-Redman had killed his wife.
The couple had gone to Cancun with their two children, then ages 3 and 5, to try to reconcile after he had an affair with a co-worker.
His wife had threatened to divorce the producer, changed the locks on the couple's home, and frozen his access to some bank accounts.
Prosecutors contended those circumstances— along with communication with his mistress while in Mexico — led to the killing.
"The fugitive had a motive to murder his wife to reclaim his assets, to take sole custody of his children and to possibly continue his relationship" with a mistress," Assistant U.S. Attorney Justine Rhoades argued during the hearing.
The prosecutor noted that some of the strongest evidence came from statements obtained by British tourists staying in an adjacent hotel room who reported hearing noises that sounded like a woman in distress.
Alison Triessl, an attorney for her family, said the victim's sisters were happy with the result but realize it is another step in a long process.
"They know there will probably be appeal after appeal," Triessl said. "It's an important day for justice. It's an important day so they can rebuild their lives."
Chooljian's ruling came after defense lawyers withdrew a request to call as a witness the 6-year-old daughter of Bruce Beresford-Redman amid unspecified concerns about the girl's ability to testify in defense of her father.
Statements filed by her therapist and one of Bruce Beresford-Redman's attorneys suggested the girl would have testified that she never saw her father act violently toward her mother during the Cancun vacation.
The girl also told the therapist and attorney that she recalled her mother leaving the hotel room to go shopping on the day she went missing.
Bruce Beresford-Redman's attorneys have for months accused Mexican authorities of basing their case on a possible motive rather than physical evidence.
Hirsch expects his client to be acquitted but said he had concerns about how he would be treated in Mexico.
"It's very disturbing what's going on in Mexico right now," he said, noting that verdicts are rendered by a judge, not a jury. "I've seen accounts of trial in Mexico, and they're rather arbitrary."
Tuesday was not Beresford-Redman's last appearance in a Los Angeles courtroom. He is expected to testify later in the week in a probate court that will determine the validity of his late wife's will.
He will remain in the custody of U.S. marshals during that appearance.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/celebritydocket