LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. (AP) -- Jurors convicted a man of murder in a 2012 asphyxiation killing in which the victim was bound up with 30 feet of duct tape and partially propped up on a couch in his Lake Havasu City home.
A Mohave County Superior Court jury in Kingman deliberated for less than an hour before returning its verdict Thursday on the fourth day of Michael A. Mears' trial, the Today's
Authorities said they found Mears' fingerprints on the duct tape that bound victim Brett Kelly. Police testified that Kelly's home had been searched for guns, drugs and money and that two guns appeared to be missing.
Judge Derek Carlisle scheduled an Aug. 22 sentencing for Mears. He faces life imprisonment for the murder conviction though Carlisle could allow the possibility of release after 25 years. The jury also found Mears guilty of kidnapping and burglary.
Kelly's body was discovered at his home on Dec. 21, lying slanted on his living room floor with his head propped up on the couch.
The county medical examiner, Rexene Worrell, testified during the trial that the cause of death was "positional asphyxiation," caused by the duct tape and the position of his neck on the couch.
Kelly died an "awful death," prosecutor Jeremy Huss said in his closing argument.
Prosecutors said Kelly died the night of Dec. 16 or early the following morning. Mears' cellphone records indicate that he left Havasu around 10 p.m. Dec. 16 for southern California, where he stayed at his sister's house near Oxnard.
Dozens of unanswered text messages beginning Dec. 16 indicated Kelly had died just before Mears left Lake Havasu City, Huss said.
Defense attorney Harry Moore tried his best to poke holes in the prosecution's case and to consider alternatives to the analysis of the state's expert witnesses.
"There is a lot that is not known about this case by anyone," he said. "Everyone is left to theorizing about what happened after Brett Kelly was tied up."
The medical examiner put the time of death around the night of Dec. 16, phone records placed Mears near Kelly's house that night before he left for California, and a fingerprint expert testified that Mears' fingerprints were on the duct tape wrapped around the victim's chest.
Kelly tested positive for methamphetamine, but Worrell said the amount of drug present in Kelly's system would not have been fatal.
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