Man Found Guilty of Murdering Store Owner

LOS ANGELES -- An ex-convict was found guilty Thursday of robbing and murdering a South Los Angeles liquor store owner who was severely beaten, choked with his own belt and chemically burned with bleach.

Larry Stewart, 49, was convicted of one count each of first-degree murder, second-degree robbery, second-degree commercial burglary and unlawful taking of a vehicle in connection with the April 2005 killing of Sang Yun "Sam" Kim.

The eight-man, four-woman jury reached its verdict Wednesday after about a day of deliberations, but the verdict was sealed until this morning so both sides could be in court.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Stewart, who has four prior convictions, including a March 1988 conviction for voluntary manslaughter from San Diego County.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David S. Wesley ordered jurors to return to court a week from today for the start of the trial's penalty phase, in which they will be asked to recommend whether Stewart should be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The 58-year-old store owner was found dead on April 24, 2005, inside Kimbo's Liquor and Jr. Market ,where he had been "dragged around the store like a piece of meat," said Deputy District Attorney Catherine Chon.

Stewart -- who was arrested two days later -- stole $5,000 in cash during the robbery and rummaged through the store, picking up boxes of liquor and cigarettes that were found in the camper where he lived behind his mother's home, the prosecutor said.

Also linked to the victim were blood found on shoes and wadded-up money found in Stewart's camper, Chon said.

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