LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A drug dealer who beat a Hollywood studio executive to death after discovering the victim was having an affair with his wife was convicted of manslaughter on Monday.
The nine-woman, three-man jury at took less than an hour to find John Lenzie Creech guilty of voluntary manslaughter over the death Gavin Smith, a 57-year-old married father-of-three, in a Los Angeles suburb in 2012.
Smith's remains were found in a shallow grave in the Angeles National Forest in the Antelope Valley two-and-a-half years after he disappeared.
Deputy district attorney Bobby Grace said in closing arguments last week that the film distribution executive was "executed in cold blood by this defendant, who hit him repeatedly in the face". Creech, 44, had used a cell phone with GPS to track down his estranged wife, Chandrika Cade, and sneak up on the two in Smith's Mercedes-Benz, the jury was told.
Creech - who was taking growth hormones at the time - could "kill with his bare hands" and "deliberately, viciously, intently delivered murderous blows to Gavin Smith repeatedly, which resulted in Gavin Smith's death," Grace said.
The jury at Los Angeles Superior Court acquitted Creech of the original charge of first-degree murder, and also of second-degree murder, before settling on the lesser count.
Creech testified that Smith, who had worked for 20th Century Fox for 18 years, had thrown the first punch, choked him and tried to gouge out his eye as the two men struggled inside the victim's car.
Defence attorney Irene Nunez told the panel that Creech had made "errors in judgment" by concealing Smith's body and car after lawfully defending himself, but argued he was not guilty of first-degree murder.
Creech's lawyer acknowledged her client was a "convicted drug seller" but said he "had to fight for his life" after Smith approached him outside the Mercedes with a weapon following a fistfight between the two men inside the sedan.
Smith's wife broke down in tears as the verdict was read but she and her family declined to comment outside court.
Creech, who showed no emotion, faces up to 11 years in prison when he is sentenced on September 19.