Ex-TV chef gets 9 years in plot to kill wife

With a wink and smile at his wife, former "Calorie Commando" TV chef Juan-Carlos Cruz was sentenced to nine years in prison Monday after pleading no contest to trying to hire two homeless men to murder her.

Looking considerably grayer than he did during his arrest in May, Cruz turned to catch one more glimpse of his wife Jennifer Campbell as he was led from the brief hearing. She was seated in the front row of the courtroom with her attorney.

In a plea agreement, Cruz, 48, pleaded no contest in October to a charge of solicitation of murder, and prosecutors dropped a more serious count of attempted murder.

Defense attorney Shawn Chapman Holley said Cruz is expected to serve half of the nine-year term because no serious, violent felony was committed.

Prosecutors have not released a motive in the case, and Campbell and Holley declined comment Monday.

The sentencing capped a bizarre tale that came to light when Cruz was arrested in a sting operation by Santa Monica police.

The investigation began when two homeless men told police that Cruz had approached them on the street, wanting to hire them as hitmen. Police then videotaped Cruz arranging the murder with the men and driving one of them to his Westwood condo to show him how to get in, prosecutors said.

The Dominican-born Cruz and Campbell, a trusts and taxation lawyer, had been together since high school.

A former pastry chef at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, Cruz's weight loss led to a new career on the Discovery Health Network's "Body Challenge 3."

That led to "Calorie Commando" on the Food Network. The show, which focused on remaking favorite recipes in low-calorie versions, ended in 2006.

Cruz then published "The Calorie Countdown Cookbook." Shortly after his arrest, his second cookbook was released, "The Love Diet," which featured aphrodisiac recipes, written with Amy Reiley.