Mans gets life for millionaire's murder in fraud scheme

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 20, 2012 4:08 PM
Mans gets life for millionaire's murder in fraud scheme

(Reuters) - A judge in Southern California on Friday sentenced a former financial advisor to life in prison for strangling a wealthy biotech executive and attempting to steal $9 million from one of his investment accounts.

A San Diego Superior Court jury last November convicted Kent Keigwin, 61, of first-degree murder in the June 2010 death of 65-year-old, British-born retired biotech executive John Watson.

Keigwin, who was a financial advisor, strangled Watson at his apartment in the wealthy La Jolla beach enclave near San Diego, California, and subsequently transferred $8.9 million out of one of his accounts.

In handing down the sentence on Friday, San Diego Superior Court Judge Frederic Link said Keigwin would not be eligible for parole.

Watson, a millionaire who since his death has been praised for helping San Diego entrepreneurs win investments, was the former CEO and president of locally based biotechnology company Ionian Technologies Inc.

Keigwin, who was friends with Watson, used a Taser to jolt Watson with an electric shock at the front door of his apartment in La Jolla, prosecutor Sharla Evert said in her closing arguments in the case.

Keigwin then strangled Watson. His DNA was subsequently found under the victim's fingernails which suggested the two men had struggled against each other, Evert said.

Keigwin's defense attorney, Stacy Gulley, said earlier in the case that Watson died after an "all-out fight" with Keigwin and her client had no motive to kill him.

But the day after Watson's death, Keigwin transferred $8.9 million from one of the victim's investment accounts into a new account that he had opened in Watson's name, prosecutors said.

Police arrested Keigwin three days after the murder.

Aside from the crime of murder, Keigwin also was convicted of the special circumstances that the killing took place for financial gain and during a robbery. Jurors also found Keigwin guilty of using the personal identity of another, burglary, forgery and attempted grand theft.

When he died, Watson was a board member with investor group Tech Coast Angels, which funds and guides fledgling companies with high growth potential in Southern California. Watson first came to the United States from Britain as a Fullbright scholar at Indiana University.

Earlier this month, Tech Coast Angels said it had established the John G. Watson Foundation with a $1 million gift from his family to support entrepreneurs in the San Diego area.

The group described Watson as a shrewd investor who liked to hike and swim in the ocean.

(Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Tim Gaynor)