Murderers at Large

The death of a prominent businessman is just one more murder that goes unsolved

Bach had been a close friend since childhood of Kalman's father, Seymour Apple, and had taken over as trustee of Kalman and his brother's $1 million trust fund following Seymour's 2002 death.

"I talked with Victor on a Wednesday, [two days before Halloween 2003.] He was finalizing tax documents, the expenses of my dad's death, and the hospital, and everything had wound down and finished. Then he meets with the lawyer, and the lawyer says, when you turn over an estate, there has to be an accounting. And he was killed three days later, on Halloween," Apple recalls.

During the days following Victor's death, family members rallied in an attempt to provide comfort to Kathleen Bach, his wife of nearly two decades who had begun managing Victor's business and financial affairs.

"You're thinking, 'Aw, poor Kathy. But then that Christmas Eve I got a call from the SFPD homicide detectives," Apple says. "They're asking me, 'Do you have any idea of the state of the trust?' ... The detective asked, 'Are you aware of all these expenses?'"

According to accounts in a criminal indictment of Bach, as well as lawsuits filed by the family, and by the trustee of a family trust fund she allegedly looted, Kathleen Bach allegedly forged checks and made ATM withdrawals from the inheritance a family friend of Victor's had left for his sons. She used the money to fund a lavish personal life, lawsuits allege, until her stealing from a family trust fund, and the plumbing business, totaled $1.9 million.

"The trust should have been $1 million. It was down to $100,000. They did a search of the Bach home and picked up all these statements, bank statements, canceled checks that had payees that didn't relate to Apple trust expenses at all," says Kalman Apple, repeating allegations stated in a criminal indictment and in several civil complaints, after having personally reviewed checks and bank statements drawn on the account. "Everything that Victor wrote with his actual signature, which was different than her forged signature, was a legitimate expense. Everything she wrote — credit card purchases, mortgage payments, jewelers, checks to herself — were not trust-related expenses. Then everything flooded into my mind. She'd be in the office at 5 a.m., before the plumbing contractors were in. She was going in on weekends."

Adds Hayes, Victor Bach's sister: "You've got money, motive, and means. It would seem to me that would make your life easier as a detective. I think it would narrow down the field of people you would really, really want to talk to."

Kathleen's attorney in the S.F. Public Defender's office did not return a call requesting comment. Calls to phone numbers in Shasta County under the name of a reputed boyfriend of Kathleen Bach likewise went unreturned.

However, a court filing earlier this month in a lawsuit brought by the professional trustee Kalman Apple hired to help recoup money on behalf of the family trust complicates the black-widow murder theory proffered by Victor Bach's family.

A supplemental amended complaint filed Nov. 17 alleges that Victor Bach himself was involved in looting his old friend Seymour's family trust, writing checks and making withdrawals for personal and other inappropriate expenses in what amounted to an embezzlement conspiracy with his wife as partner.

An attorney for Joanne Holman Stine, a professional fiduciary who Kalman Apple hired to act as trustee for the accounts, could not be reached for comment by deadline.

If Victor Bach and his wife schemed together to loot his friend's $1 million trust, what becomes of Kathleen's supposed motive to kill him? Was there a third accomplice involved in the stealing? Could the murder have been the result of a botched break-in after all?

Sandra Hayes says she gives the allegations of a conspiracy involving Victor Bach and his wife no credence. "What matters in the end is what the judge decides," Hayes said. "Not what's in an amended complaint."

Even Kalman Apple, upon whose behalf the filing was made, said he's loath to think his family friend Victor Bach would have knowingly defrauded him and his brother Jennings. Victor Bach's parents had taken Seymour in as an impoverished child when they were living in New York. Seymour Apple and Victor Bach were brothers in all but blood.

"My wife and I have gone back and forth on this. You don't see anything that says Victor wrote any expenses that are wrong. But you look at so many checks, and how could he not see? How could he not get a brokerage statement? It seems unrealistic that he would not have known that," Apple said.

Kalman Apple then cast his mind back to a time before Victor Bach's death when he asked for permission to take out a loan on the trust account for which Apple was beneficiary. Victor Bach said this wouldn't be possible, because the trust had been depleted. "He told me, 'Oh, it was the state of the economy. We had to sell off a bunch of things.' But when I looked at the account statements, it wasn't because of the economy," Apple said.

The account was empty because it had been looted.

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