In a decision that took less than three hours, an Orange County jury today found Gary A. Shawkey guilty of murdering a 71-year-old Arizona man last seen alive at a Dana Point hotel.
Prosecutors said Shawkey, 47, of Mechanicsville, Va., killed Robert Vendrick for money after luring him onto a sailboat out of Dana Point Harbor.
No body was ever recovered, but Shawkey was found guilty Tuesday of one felony count of special circumstances murder for financial gain, one felony count of grand theft, and a sentencing enhancement for stealing more than $200,000.
Special circumstances murder convictions carry a mandatory sentence of life in state prison without parole.
Shawkey will be sentenced July 22 in Santa Ana.
Prosecutors said Shawkey stole $1.2 million from Vendrick by persuading him to put money into fake investments with the promise of high returns. When Vendrick became suspicious, prosecutors said, Shawkey conned him into a new venture involving the development of top-secret computer software for the federal government.
He convinced Vendrick to wire $100,000 to a bank account in Shawkey’s name and told the victim to fly to Orange County to meet with federal agents to finalize the project.
While the pair were en route to San Clemente Island from Dana Point Harbor, reportedly to meet with the agents, Shawkey killed Vendrick and tossed the body overboard, prosecutors said.
Shawkey was extradited from Virginia in March 2009 to face murder charges after being arrested there on unrelated theft charges.
Shawkey's attorney claimed prosecutors offered no evidence to prove Vendrick was even dead. The attorney said Vendrick had good reason to disappear, including troubled finances and a mistress.