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Ex-Officer Is Convicted of Killing Lover's Husband

Courts: Onetime police chaplain faces 21 years in prison for manslaughter. Jurors reject prosecution's call for a first-degree murder conviction.

June 29, 2000|From Associated Press

FRESNO — A former police officer and Baptist minister was convicted of voluntary manslaughter Wednesday for killing his lover's husband.

The courtroom was silent and Paul Hurth showed no emotion as the jury returned its verdict clearing him of murder in the Feb. 18 shooting death of car salesman Ralph Peter Gawor.

Hurth, 44, who could have been sent to prison for life if he was convicted of murder, faces a maximum of 21 years in prison for the lesser manslaughter charge when he is sentenced Aug. 14 in Fresno Superior Court.

The four-year police officer and department chaplain testified that he killed Gawor in self-defense with his service weapon after going to Gawor's house to tell him of the sexual affair he had been having with Nancy Gawor.

Nancy Gawor, who joked with friends and applied makeup moments before the jury returned to the courtroom, showed no emotion as the verdict was read. She refused to comment afterward.

Hurth's 20-year-old son, David, said he was relieved that the trial was over, but was "not extremely happy" with the verdict.

"It's better than murder, so we're happy about that," he said outside the court.

Jurors said they decided in the first hours of deliberations Friday to acquit Hurth of murder, according to defense lawyer Ernest Kinney.

They spent the last three days trying to determine whether to acquit Hurth or choose the lesser charges of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

Hurth wrote a note to his lawyer saying, "I want to thank the jurors in this tragic case."

Prosecutor James Oppliger said jurors told him they believed some of Hurth's testimony. The voluntary manslaughter verdict means the jury decided that the killing was intentional, but the intent was mitigated by the element of self-defense.

"Some people are arguing that he got away with murder," said Oppliger, who said he thought Hurth was guilty of murder.

"Certainly that's what I argued and certainly that's what I felt and feel now."

He said he would seek the maximum penalty for what he called "as aggressive a manslaughter as you can find."

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