LOS ANGELES >> A convicted drug dealer was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter today in the beating death of a former University of Hawaii basketball player.
The Los Angeles County Superior Court jury rejected first- or second-degree murder but convicted John Creech, 44, on the lesser charge in the killing of Gavin Smith, 57, a Southern California 20th Century Fox distribution executive.
Creech appeared subdued and showed no reaction when the verdict was read. Sentencing was set for Sept. 19.
The prosecution said at the outset of the trial that Creech killed Smith because Smith was having an affair with his wife.
Creech’s defense countered that Creech hit Smith in self-defense after the movie studio executive attacked him.
“It was a sad and tragic case,” Deputy Public Defender Irene Nunez said after the verdict.
Jurors left without speaking to reporters.
Smith disappeared in May 2012. The district attorney’s office said his car was found nearly a year later in a storage facility connected to Creech.
Smith’s remains were found in October 2014 in a shallow grave near Acton in the desert north of Los Angeles.
At the time of Creech’s indictment, he was serving an eight-year sentence for sale or transportation of drugs.
In the 1970s, Smith played basketball for UCLA and transferred to UH where he played one season for the Rainbows, in 1976-77. He set a Hawaii record that was still standing in 2012 for scoring average for a season: 23.4 points per game.
Smith was also part of the 1975 UCLA national championship team.