Santa Monica Police Department/AP
Ken Lee
October 26, 2010 03:45 PM

After his arrest in May, neighbors expressed shock and disbelief that Juan-Carlos Cruz, a churchgoing Catholic and well-known pastry chef who once had his own TV show, would want anyone dead, much less his wife.

But on Tuesday, the former Food Network star pleaded no contest in a Los Angeles court to soliciting two homeless men to kill his high school sweetheart, Jennifer Campbell, an attorney. The plot was thwarted by police, and Campbell wasn’t hurt.

Although Cruz didn’t admit wrongdoing, his plea has the same legal effect of a guilty plea. Cruz, 48, now faces nine years in state prison at his sentencing hearing set for Dec. 13.

RELATED: Former Food Network Chef Arrested in Murder-for-Hire Plot

The former Hotel Bel-Air pastry chef was arrested in May following an investigation into allegations that he offered the men $500 to commit the crime.

Police set up a sting operation and videotaped Cruz arranging the murder with the men, including driving one to his apartment and showing him how to access the secure building.

Cruz found fame in 2004 as host of the Calorie Commando, a healthy cooking show in which the chef was challenged to create low-calorie versions of comfort food. The program ran for two years.

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