Jurors began deliberations Friday in the trial of a San Fernando Valley man charged with murdering a 20th Century Fox distribution executive having an off-and-on affair with the defendant’s estranged wife.

The eight-woman, four-man panel that heard the case against John Lenzie Creech began its deliberations shortly before 10:30 a.m. and left the downtown Los Angeles courthouse just before 4 p.m. without reaching a verdict.

Jurors are due back in court Monday morning to continue their discussions.

Creech, 44, is charged with murder in the May 2012 beating death of his wife’s lover, Gavin Smith, a 57-year-old married father of three, in a West Hills business park.

The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegation of murder while lying in wait.

Smith’s remains were found in a shallow grave in the Angeles National Forest in the Antelope Valley about 2 1/2 years after he disappeared.

In his closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Bobby Grace told the jury, “Gavin Smith was executed in cold blood by this defendant who hit him repeatedly in the face” after using a GPS cell phone to track down his wife, Chandrika Cade, and sneak up on the two in Smith’s Mercedes-Benz.

“You don’t accidentally beat someone to death,” the prosecutor said in his rebuttal argument shortly before the jury was handed the case.

Defense attorney Irene Nunez urged jurors to acquit Creech, saying he had made “errors in judgment” by concealing Smith’s body and car after lawfully defending himself in a fight that he testified was initiated by Smith.

Creech’s lawyer acknowledged her client is a “convicted drug seller” but said he “had to fight for his life” after the man who had “intruded” into his life and marriage approached him outside the Mercedes with a weapon following a fistfight between the two men inside the sedan.

“This was a tragic fight between two grown men, two flawed men, two imperfect men,” Nunez said. “There was no intention to kill. This was a spontaneous fight.”

She urged jurors to acquit her client, saying it would be the “only just verdict.”

The prosecutor countered that Creech — who was taking growth hormones at the time and was an ex-con free on bail — could “kill with his bare hands” and “deliberately, viciously, intently delivered murderous blows to Gavin Smith repeatedly, which resulted in Gavin Smith’s death.”

The deputy district attorney told jurors that Creech and Cade had an “unconventional marriage” in which the two “both cheated on each other,” and that it was “essentially a countdown to murder” when Creech “first uttered the threat” in 2010 that he would kill Smith if he continued to see Cade.

Creech told the Los Angeles Superior Court jury that he took “full accountability” for failing to call 911 after what he described as mutual combat or to seek help for Smith, who was a member of UCLA’s 1975 NCAA-winning basketball team under famed Coach John Wooden and had worked at 20th Century Fox for 18 years.

Creech testified that Smith threw the first punch, choked him and tried to gouge out his eye as the two men struggled inside Smith’s car — with the prosecutor later telling jurors that the injuries to Smith and Creech were “not consistent with self-defense” and that Creech’s subsequent actions demonstrated a “stunning consciousness of guilt.”

Creech could face a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole if he is convicted of first-degree murder and if jurors find true the special circumstance allegation of murder while lying in wait.

The jury also can consider the lesser offenses of second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

— City News Service

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.