HONOLULU (AP) — A Hawaii man who confessed to killing a visiting University of Pittsburgh professor in 1996 was found guilty of second-degree murder on Wednesday.
Judge Richard Perkins convicted Jason Lee McCormick of killing Robert Henderson, a 51-year-old guest lecturer at the University of Hawaii.
Henderson’s nude, decomposed body was found in his Waikiki condo five days after he was last seen leaving campus. He had been strangled, prosecutors said.
Perkins heard a stipulated facts trial that ended in September, where the prosecution and defense agreed to let the judge render a decision based on police reports, mental health evaluations and McCormick’s statements.
McCormick’s lawyer, Michael Green, said he’s disappointed but not shocked by the verdict. He said the decision at least brings closure for a crime McCormick has lived with for many years.
“This was never a not guilty,” Green said. “It was either going to be murder or manslaughter.”
“Even though he was angry, he acted with intent to kill,” Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Darrell Wong said.
The case remained unsolved until 2008 when McCormick confessed while he was being treated at a psychiatric facility. He later went to police and confessed again, Green said.
“As years went by, he had a problem living with himself,” Green said.
McCormick wasn’t charged with second-degree murder until two years after his confession.
In closing arguments, Green said McCormick was drunk and went into a rage because he was sexually abused as a child and believed Henderson made sexual advances toward him. There was a message scrawled on Henderson’s body accusing him of molesting children, a message Henderson’s brother said was meant to divert attention. Police said there was no evidence to back up the child molestation claim. Wong argued that McCormick practiced martial arts and knew that choking Henderson could kill him.
Green told the judge McCormick tried to hang himself a few weeks ago.
McCormick faces a mandatory sentence of life with the possibility of parole when he’s sentenced on Sept. 11.
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