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Crime

Convicted Drug Dealer Convicted of Manslaughter But Acquitted of Murder in Death of Fox Movie Executive

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Gavin Smith
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department via AP

A California jury found a convicted drug dealer guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the 2012 killing of Fox movie executive Gavin Smith — but it acquitted the man of murder, PEOPLE confirms.

John Creech, 44, faces a maximum sentence of 11 years in prison when he is sentenced on Sept. 19, according to a press release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

After finding Smith and his estranged wife together in Smith’s car, Creech beat Smith to death while his wife pleaded for him to stop, the release states. The county coroner testified that Smith’s skull had been crushed on both sides, ABC 7 reports.

Smith, a married father-of-three and a former basketball player on championship teams at UCLA, had been having an affair with Creech’s wife, Chandrika Cade, KTLA reports. An L.A. Sheriff’s spokesman told PEOPLE in 2013 that Smith and Cade had met in rehab in 2009.

NBC reports that Deputy District Attorney Bobby Grace said in his closing argument that Creech killed Smith after using a cell phone with GPS to track down his wife, and that he snuck up on the pair in Smith’s Mercedes-Benz.

John Creech
Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via AP

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Defense attorney Irene Nunez countered that Creech lawfully defended himself in a fight Creech testified was initiated by Smith, but she conceded Creech had made “errors in judgement” by concealing Smith’s body and car after the killing.

For more than two years, authorities searched for Smith but found no trace of him – until 2014, when hikers discovered his remains about 70 miles away from where he was last seen, in a shallow grave in the Angeles National Forest.

Creech became the No. 1 suspect in Smith’s disappearance after authorities discovered the exec’s car at a storage facility linked to Cheech in Simi Valley in February 2013. The condition of the car led police to believe that Smith had been murdered.

The jury had been presented with options including first- and second-degree murder, which could have sent Creech to prison for life, ABC7 reports. An anonymous juror told the station that Creech seemed credible when he said he didn’t premeditate Smith’s killing.

“I don’t believe this man set out to kill this man. I don’t believe that with my whole heart,” the juror said.

Smith’s wife, Lisa, collapsed in tears when the verdict was read, ABC7 reports.

It was not immediately clear if Creech planned to appeal.