May 20, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Sante Kimes, convicted in N.Y. widow's murder, dies

FILE- In this June 23, 2004 file photo, Sante Kimes testifies during her murder trial in Los Angeles Superior Court. (Brian Vander Brug / AP)

New York— Sante Kimes, who along with her son made up a notorious grifter team convicted of the murders of a wealthy widow in New York and a businessman in Los Angeles, has died in her prison cell at age 79.

Kimes, who was portrayed by Mary Tyler Moore in a TV movie, died Monday night after being found unresponsive at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Westchester County, said Linda Foglia, spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections.

In 2000, Kimes and her son, Kenneth Kimes, were convicted of murder in connection with the disappearance of Irene Silverman, an 82-year-old widow and former Radio City Music Hall Rockette. Authorities said the Kimeses conspired to steal Silverman’s $7 million Manhattan town house and other possessions, and her body has never been found.

At the time of the Kimeses’ sentencing, authorities said Kenneth Kimes strangled Silverman and then he and his mother put her body in garbage bags and disposed of it somewhere only they knew. A police search of their car and luggage found guns, a knockout liquid, plastic handcuffs, fright masks, syringes, tapes of Silverman’s telephone conversations and a fake deed to Silverman’s home.

Sante Kimes was sentenced to 120 years in prison and would not have been eligible for parole until 2119. Her son received 125 years.

In 2004, Sante Kimes was convicted in California of murder in the 1998 death of businessman David Kazdin, whose body was found in a trash bin, and she was later sentenced to life in prison.

Kenneth Kimes, who pleaded guilty in 2003, also was sentenced to life in prison. He said his mother planned Kazdin’s killing and sent him to do the job. He testified that he shot Kazdin in the back of the head at close range and that someone he found at a homeless shelter helped him dispose of the body.

He said his mother decided to kill Kazdin, an old friend, after Kazdin found out that she had taken out a $280,000 loan by forging his signature.

Sante Kimes’ criminal past also included a 1986 conviction for illegally transporting Mexican girls and keeping them as prisoners and household slaves in her Las Vegas home.

The made-for-TV movie about the Kimeses, “Like Mother Like Son: The Strange Story of Sante and Kenny Kimes,” featured Gabriel Olds as the son.