Asking a Los Angeles Superior Court jury Friday to convict Ricky Kyle of first-degree murder, prosecutor Lewis Watnick told jurors that Kyle's dying multimillionaire father, in his last moments, had solved his own killing.
In his closing statement after a five-month trial, Watnick told jurors that Henry Harrison Kyle, fatally wounded by his son in a gun battle in his Bel-Air mansion, fired a wild shot that struck his fleeing son on the arm.
And except for that wound, the prosecutor argued, Ricky Kyle could have claimed to have been asleep when the killing occurred--and his clever murder plan would have succeeded.
"Without that shot, fired in the dark by a dying man, we would probably not have had this matter before us," the prosecutor said. "To me, this is almost like the hand of God."
In his summation, which began Wednesday, Watnick repeatedly attacked 22-year-old Ricky Kyle's credibility, characterizing him as a "chronic, habitual and probably pathological liar" who planned to murder his father to gain his vast inheritance.
Henry Kyle, 60, was found shot to death on July 22, 1983, in the Stone Canyon Road mansion into which he had moved several months earlier. The owner of vast properties in Texas and elsewhere in the Southwest, Kyle had moved to Los Angeles to watch over Four Star International, the local television production firm he headed.
Immediately after the killing, Ricky Kyle told police that his father had been shot and he himself wounded by an intruder. But last month, in their opening statement to the jury, Kyle's attorneys said Ricky blamed the killing on an intruder because he was "scared" and had repeatedly been abused by his father.
But Watnick, in his closing statement, outlined for the jury a complex web of deception and murderous greed woven by Ricky Kyle in an attempt to gain his father's money.
'The Perfect Murder'
Several witnesses testified, Watnick reminded the jury, that Ricky had spoken of killing his father, saying to one that he had "to figure out the perfect murder." Three witnesses, including Ricky Kyle's half-sister and brother-in-law, testified that the defendant confessed the murder to them.
"The defendant would have you believe that somehow, collectively, these three people got together to railroad him," the prosecutor said.
Just before the killing, Watnick said, Ricky Kyle roused his father with a story that he had heard prowlers outside the home. After checking the rest of the house, the two walked into the dining room, where Ricky Kyle suddenly shot his father, Watnick said.
The prosecutor charged that Ricky Kyle had planned to shoot his father and then escape to his room. When others living at the house found the body, Ricky Kyle could have claimed never to have left his room, Watnick alleged.
View of Suspect's Story
But when the dying Henry Kyle managed to shoot his son, Ricky was forced to change his story and blame the killing on someone else, Watnick said. Watnick played for the jury part of a tape-recorded interview between Ricky Kyle and investigators. In the interview, conducted the day after the killing, Ricky Kyle dispassionately told how he and his father were surprised by an intruder.
"I suggest the third person he was talking about was in fact the defendant, interspersing true facts with the false ones," Watnick said.
The prosecutor also criticized the attempts by the defense to portray the elder Kyle as a father who regularly abused his son.
"If the defendant . . . was worried about abuse, why come here to California and, more important, why stay here?" Watnick asked the jury. "The defendant was at 110 Stone Canyon Road for money and for murder."
Defense attorneys began their summation Friday and will continue Monday. Judge Robert R. Devich said the case could go to the jury Wednesday.