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Man charged in death of retiree who befriended him

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

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INGRAM, Texas — 

A wealthy retiree opened his three-story lake home to an out-of-work mechanic he had befriended, then was murdered and his possessions plundered, according to indictments against the mechanic and 15 other people.

The mechanic, Charles Lee Tidwell, 46, and another man were indicted on murder charges Monday in the death of retired investment banker 52-year-old Allan Kowalski. Fourteen people, mostly friends and family of Tidwell, were indicted on theft charges and related crimes.

Tidwell apparently learned the extent of Kowalski's wealth, and the men had a falling out, Kerr County Sheriff W.R. "Rusty" Hierholzer said Tuesday.

Authorities said Kowalski saw that Tidwell, a mechanic with a methamphetamine habit, had been down on his luck, so he hired him to work on his classic cars.

Kowalski was last seen Aug. 26 but was never reported missing. A deputy who pulled Tidwell over became suspicious when Tidwell claimed to be Kolwalski.

The banker's body was found in a shallow grave in his yard Nov. 6.

Authorities believe Tidwell and his wife took over the home and invited two recently released felons into the house after Kowalski's death.

Hierholzer said the theft ring sold off Kowalski's classic cars and housewares and tried to sell his $530,000 home. The group also opened credit cards and forged checks in Kowalski's name.

"Once he was dead, it was kind of feeding frenzy," Hierholzer said.

More charges are possible, and investigators are still looking for some of Kowalski's cars and other possessions.

Tidwell and Ricardo Giovannetti, 46, were each being held on $600,000 bond.

A call to Tidwell's attorney, Steve Pickell, was not returned Tuesday evening. The jail did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press on whether Giovannetti had an attorney.

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