LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A convicted drug dealer was sentenced on Tuesday to 11 years in prison in the death of a Hollywood studio executive whose remains were found buried in the California desert more than two years after he disappeared in 2012.
John Lenzie Creech, 45, was convicted in July of involuntary manslaughter after a two-week jury trial in Los Angeles Superior Court. Prosecutors had sought a murder conviction.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephen Marcus imposed the maximum sentence for the manslaughter conviction, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Marcus called Creech “a cold person” for killing Smith and then concealing the body, according to video of the hearing aired on CBS Los Angeles.
Creech’s public defender, Irene Nunez, did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment
Prosecutors said during the trial that Creech attacked and killed Smith after finding his estranged wife in a car with the 57-year-old film distribution executive at 20th Century Fox.
Nunez argued that her client acted in self-defense after Smith choked him, gouged his eyes and threatened him with a sharp tool, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Smith had met Creech’s wife, Chandrika Creech, in rehab in 2009, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Smith was last seen on the night of May 2, 2012, driving his black Mercedes-Benz away from a friend’s home in the Los Angeles suburb of Oak Park.
Police issued a missing-person alert for Smith, who also was known for playing on UCLA’s 1975 national championship basketball team under celebrated coach John Wooden.
The film studio issued a statement expressing concern about Smith’s whereabouts, and his family posted a $20,000 reward, saying the 6-foot-6-inch (1.98-metre) former athlete with “movie star looks” should be easy to spot.
Investigators got a break in the case in early 2013 when Smith’s car was found in a storage facility in the Los Angeles suburb of Simi Valley.
Smith was declared dead in May 2014, and a death certificate was issued, although his body had not been found.
In October 2014, hikers discovered a skull and other bones belonging to Smith buried in a shallow grave in the Angeles National Forest, 40 miles (64 km) east of Los Angeles.
Creech was already serving an eight-year prison sentence for the sale of a controlled substance when he was charged in the slaying.
Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney