SAN JOSE -- After nearly four months in jail, an engineer suspected of killing his wife 25 years ago has persuaded a judge to release him while the cold case is pending -- as long as he posts $1 million bail.

But as of Thursday, David Zimmer remained behind bars while his family in Half Moon Bay tried to scrape together the high bail set Wednesday by Judge Gilbert T. Brown. The 66-year-old engineer must either produce the cash or pay a bail bonds company a $100,000 fee to put up the bond for him.

David Zimmer and his brother Robert are accused of killing David's estranged wife Cathy, whose body was found in March 1989 in the back seat of her car at the San Jose airport, wrapped in a colorful patchwork quilt whose origins are still unknown despite widespread publicity. The 38-year-old mother of two had been strangled. Robert is still being held without bail.

David Zimmer's lawyer Michael Cardoza successfully argued that bail should be set, characterizing the case against his client as weak. He was aided in his quest by a comment from another judge, Ronald Toff, who had ruled that David Zimmer should stand trial but commented that the evidence against him was "rather thin."

Prosecutor Ted Kajani could not be reached for comment. Cardoza said Kajani had noted the gravity of the murder charge in arguing that bail be denied.

The case has been unusually convoluted since the brothers were arrested in March.

First, both brothers were set to be tried together. The prosecution had advocated that the case be consolidated in a single hearing, in part because it is more efficient and also because the combined evidence against the brothers is stronger than the evidence against David Zimmer alone.


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That evidence includes the discovery of Robert's DNA on the zipper or button of Cathy's pants and the fact that David benefited financially from her death. David had left Cathy for another woman he married 10 years later, and made $409,000 from the sale of their house and from insurance policies.

But David Zimmer's lawyer Cardoza forced a judge to split the case by entering a not guilty plea in April, slashing the amount of time prosecutors have to prepare in hopes that a judge will dismiss the case for lack of evidence. Meanwhile, Robert's lawyer Steve Defilippis waived his right to a speedy trial, signaling he would need time to prepare.

Now, the prosecution will try once again to have the cases consolidated in a single trial.

"It makes sense for judicial economy to try them together," Assistant District Attorney Marc Buller said Thursday.

In an effort to move Robert Zimmer's case along, Kajani recently persuaded a secret grand jury to indict Zimmer, rather than have a judge decide in a preliminary hearing, which could be delayed, whether there's enough evidence for him to stand trial. Both Cardoza and Defilippis oppose consolidation.

Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Follow her at Twitter.com/tkaplanreport.