A prosecutor urged jurors Wednesday to convict a San Fernando Valley man of first-degree murder for the beating death of a 20th Century Fox distribution executive, saying the defendant attacked his estranged wife's married lover out of revenge after sneaking up on the two in the midst of a romantic rendezvous in West Hills five years ago.
Deputy District Attorney Bobby Grace told the eight-woman, four-man panel that John Creech "surprised" his estranged wife, Chandrika Cade, as she sat on the lap of her off-and-on love interest, Gavin Smith, and that Creech immediately attacked the 57-year-old businessman inside Smith's Mercedes-Benz in May 2012.
"In this case, there is certainly motive," the prosecutor said, telling jurors that thr 44-year-old defendant attacked Smith "for revenge."
"He deliberately, viciously, intently delivered murderous blows to Gavin Smith repeatedly, which resulted in Gavin Smith's death," Grace said.
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"This wasn't a kids' fight ... There's clearly an intent to kill here that's evidenced by the severity of the injuries to Gavin Smith."
The prosecutor said Creech "went to great lengths to hide all of the things that he did to Gavin Smith," whose remains were found about 2 1/2 years later in a shallow grave in the Angeles National Forest in the Antelope Valley.
Creech's attorney, Irene Nunez, maintains that her client killed Smith in self-defense and then made "errors in judgment" by trying to conceal the body of the former UCLA basketball player, who was on the 1975 NCAA-winning basketball team under Coach John Wooden and had worked for 20th Century Fox for 18 years.
Creech — who testified in his own defense — 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.
Creech told jurors that Smith threw the first punch, choked him and tried to gouge out his eye as the two men struggled inside Smith's vehicle.
Under questioning by his own attorney, Creech said he was "extremely" panicked when he couldn't detect a pulse from Smith. He acknowledged that he was convicted in 2010 of possession for sale of cocaine and was "out on bail" at the time of his deadly encounter with Smith and said that the ``last thing I'm going to do is call the police."
The prosecutor countered that Creech's claim that he was acting in self-defense is "contrived," telling jurors that the evidence showed that "everything he said about what happened was a lie." Creech's claim that Smith came at him wielding a multi-purpose tool in the latter part of the struggle between the two men was "just completely made up by this defendant," Grace said.
The deputy district attorney told jurors that Creech "went and injected himself into the situation" by using a cell phone GPS app to track down his estranged wife, with whom he had an "unconventional marriage" in which the two "both cheated on each other."
"This is not your typical Brady Bunch marriage," Grace said, noting that Creech had long been aware of his wife's off-and-on "affair" with Smith. "The seeds of this murder go back as far as 2008."
In 2010, the defendant "first uttered the threat" that he would kill Smith if he continued to see Cade, the prosecutor said, saying it was "essentially a countdown to murder."
Everyone who knew that Creech had told two of Smith's three sons that they had saved their father's life by going to see him at his home in 2010 immediately mentioned that to authorities when Smith disappeared about 17 months later, Grace said.
Jurors are expected to be handed the case against Creech after hearing the defense's closing argument, along with the prosecution's rebuttal argument.
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.