In September 1990, Aston was mentioned by Stiff again, in a column about a La Jolla party honoring Francoise Gilot, the wife of Jonas Salk. Others present included U-T columnist Neil Morgan and his wife Judith, as well as Audrey Geisel, widow of Dr. Seuss. “Audrey's jewelry included an anthropomorphic ‘A’ from the Erte alphabet," Stiff observed.
Interviewed by phone this week. Stiff says he doesn't remember Blachford and only vaguely remembers hearing Aston's name in connection with the sale of a house of some La Jolla friends. “I’ve seen a lot of names over the 20 years I've done the column. I don’t remember them all." Stiff says he never met Cunanan and doesn't believe David Copley ever did either. “I haven't talked to David since I got back from a trip this week, so I don't know for sure, but I never heard his name, discussed him with David, or saw him at any of David's parties."
Aston, 61, was murdered in May 1995 by a 35-year-old drifter whom the architect had picked up in a Hillcrest bar. By then Aston had moved to a $575,000 condo in the 3100 block of Front Street. Details about Aston's sexual preferences surfaced during the preliminary hearing for Kevin Bond, his alleged killer, who eventually plead guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison.
According to testimony by James Michael Hays, who on the night of the murder had accompanied the architect to the Hillcrest bar called the Caliph, Aston was looking for sex.
Prosecutor: Now, the Caliph — is the Caliph...what type of establishment?
Hays: It’s a gay bar where older men can meet younger men.
Prosecutor: While you were at the Caliph, did you and Lincoln Aston meet another person?
Hays: Yes. Lincoln got up and introduced himself to someone, and they talked for a few minutes, and then he brought that person back over, and they sat down beside me.
Prosecutor: And this person that introduced himself as Kevin, did that person talk to you?
Hays: Yes, he did.
Prosecutor: And describe that conversation that you had with that person, or that he had with Lincoln in your presence.
Hays: Lincoln excused himself to go to the restroom at one point, and this guy that said his name was Kevin turned and said something to the effect that Lincoln was very aggressive. And I agreed with him and said that the best way to handle Lincoln was to be honest with Lincoln.
[A short time later, Hays testified about a conversation he overheard between Aston and Bond.]
Hays: Kevin had said that he had been in the military for approximately seven years, I think, and their conversation — the only other thing that I heard was Lincoln asking him the question as to whether — as to his sexual orientation and to what he preferred to do sexually. And the term that Lincoln used was whether or not he was a top or bottom. And the person didn't — Kevin didn't seem to know what that was.
[Later, on cross-examination, Hays was asked to explain the meaning of “bottom.”]
Hays: A person who finds pleasure through receiving anal intercourse.
Defense attorney: And what does a top mean?
Hays: A person who enjoys engaging in anal intercourse, but not receiving.
Defense attorney: What do you mean by that?
Judge: I think it's clear enough. You're either a recipient or a donor, one or the other.
[Earlier, Hays had been asked by the defense to explain his relationship with Aston.]
Defense attorney: You're 20 years old?
Defense attorney: Mr. Aston was 60 years old?
Hays: 60, 61.
Defense attorney: The nature of your relationship with him was one of prostitution, is that right?
Hays: To begin with, yes.
Defense attorney: Mr. Aston would generally pay you $100 for your company for the evening?
Defense attorney: And sometimes that would be just going out to dinner with him?
Defense attorney: And other times engaging in sexual activity?
[The defense asked Hays about the state of his relationship with Aston.)
Defense attorney: Didn't Mr. Aston tell you that unless you wanted to make your relationship more permanent, it was too expensive for him to continue to see you?
Hays: No, that’s not the impression that I got. I got the impression that he was having financial difficulties, and it was from my point of view that I wanted to be friends with him. I did not know that night that's what he intended to do.... I knew that he was falling in love with me.
[Later, Adam Grein, who had been living with Aston at the time of the murder, was called to the stand.]
Defense attorney: All right. How old are you?
Defense attorney: Were you paying Mr. Aston any rent?
Defense attorney: ...to stay at his apartment? He was letting you use his jeep?
Defense attorney: Were you having a sexual relationship with Mr. Aston?
Defense attorney: Was Mr. Aston giving you any money during the time you were staying with him?
Grein: No. I’ve always been taken care of by my family.
Defense attorney: So your family was sending you money?
Grein: Yes, I received basically on a weekly basis sometimes over excess of $300.
[Later, Grein explained why he had decided shortly before the murder to move out of Aston’s apartment.]
Grein: That day, when we were going up to Miramar to retrieve his Lincoln, ’cause he was having new rims put on it, he questioned me as to what — as to a relationship I was in at that time and how I should handle it and what I should be doing. And at that point we both decided my best interest was to go back to Arizona where I originally came from, or at least came from to San Diego. And so I don’t know if his actual motive was to actually ask me to leave, but we both decided that it would be in my best interests to go home....