Man Convicted of 1976 MurderAP , Associated Press
Feb. 9, 2000 9:33 PM ET
LARGO, Fla. (AP) _ A man was convicted Wednesday of the 1976 murder of a teen-age girl, after the jury rejected his claim that her death was accidental but he tried to make it look like a crime.
The jury needed just 25 minutes to convict James Brian Kuenn, 40, of first-degree murder in the slaying of 16-year-old Carol Hutto, with whom he had a secret romance. Hutto's partially clad body was found in a shallow pond, weighed down with concrete blocks.
Kuenn, who has spent his adult life in the Navy, could face life in prison.
Prosecutors alleged that Kuenn killed the girl after she refused to have sex with him. DNA evidence linked him to the scene.
Kuenn said that the girl's death was an accident, and that he tried to hide his involvement with her by making her death look like a crime committed by someone else.
Kuenn said he and Hutto had arranged a rendezvous at a house under construction. He said they were chasing each other in the house when she fell backward.
Kuenn said he tried to revive her, but couldn't. He said he took Hutto's clothes off, made strangulation marks with his hands on her neck and hit her with a piece of wood to make it appear as if she'd been attacked. He dumped her body in a pond behind the house.
An autopsy determined that Hutto had drowned.
The case had been unsolved for nearly two decades when a detective reopened the file in 1994 and saw that Kuenn _ whose name was found in Hutto's diary _ hadn't been ruled out as a suspect.
The detective interviewed Kuenn and noticed that he gave a different explanation of his whereabouts. That reopened the investigation, and by then, police had a new weapon _ advanced DNA testing that could be used on smaller bits of evidence.