John Lenzie Creech, 42, was charged Thursday in the May 2, 2012, killing of Gavin Smith, who had played basketball at UCLA in the 1970s.
Smith, 57, was last seen between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. on May 1, 2012, leaving a female friend's home off Kanan Road in eastern Ventura County in his black 2000 Mercedes-Benz 420 E. The vehicle was recovered in Simi Valley on Feb. 21, 2013, at a storage facility that authorities said was connected to Creech.
Smith's remains were found in a shallow grave by a man walking with his dog last Oct. 26 in a rural area on the south side of Palmdale near the border with Acton, authorities said.
Creech -- who faces a 25-year-to-life term if convicted of first-degree murder -- is serving an eight-year jail term for his no contest plea in September 2012 to one count of sale or transportation for sale of a controlled substance, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
After Smith's remains were found in a shallow grave, sheriff's Lt. David Dolson described Creech as "still a person of interest.''
In June 2012, detectives and a SWAT team raided a West Hills home owned by Creech. The Los Angeles Times later reported it had obtained documents indicating sheriff's deputies felt an unspecified felony related to Smith's disappearance may have happened there.
Smith met Creech's wife, Chandrika Creech, in rehab therapy, according to the newspaper, which reported that Creech denied knowing Smith, despite his wife saying otherwise.
Investigators believe there was some type of relationship between the victim and Creech's wife.
Dolson said earlier that after detectives found Smith's car, they served several search warrants in the San Fernando Valley and began investigating the death as a homicide "based on the vehicle's condition and information developed from persons cooperating in the investigation.''