A state appeals court panel Thursday upheld a man’s conviction for murdering his lover and leaving the man’s body in a plastic storage container in the victim’s Los Angeles apartment.

The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal found there was “substantial evidence” to support Kenneth Mullen Watkins’ second-degree murder conviction and a knife-use enhancement for the January 2016 stabbing of Terry Nigale Benjamin.

“Both defendant’s and Benjamin’s DNA was found on one or more of four knives stuffed into a bag in Benjamin’s apartment; and defendant’s fingerprints were found on items in Benjamin’s apartment, including on a mop used to clean up some of the blood from the stabbings,” according to the panel’s three-page ruling.

The 52-year-old victim’s body was discovered on Jan. 23, 2016, after neighbors in the apartment complex where he lived in the 4100 block of Santo Thomas Drive complained about a foul smell.

The detectives obtained fingerprint evidence from inside the residence and the victim’s vehicle that led them to Watkins, who was arrested in March 2016 and acknowledged under questioning that he had stabbed the victim, according to Deputy District Attorney Deann Rivard.

Watkins’ trial attorney, Philip C. Dube, called it a case of “self-defense.”

“He insists that the victim came at him with a knife and he defended himself, and he will take that to his grave,” Dube said last year.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Herriford sentenced Watkins last September to 16 years to life in state prison, declining the defense’s request to strike the knife enhancement that added a year to the term. He cited the “multiple stab wounds” to Benjamin and the circumstances of the attack and the disposal of the victim’s body.

At the sentencing hearing, the victim’s younger sister told the judge that her brother was a “role model always guiding me with wisdom” and that she felt “like a part of me has been taken away.”

Pam Sturrock said her brother’s life was “so violently taken” and that it would have a ripple effect for years to come.

Daniel Solis, who went to college with the victim, told the court: “A beautiful light has been put out.”

Speaking directly to Benjamin’s killer, Solis said, “You killed him and shoved him in a container and left him there to rot.”

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