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California Briefing / MODESTO

Preacher guilty in farmer's drowning

August 05, 2008|From the Associated Press

A preacher was convicted Monday of murdering an 85-year-old farmer and stealing more than $1 million from the elderly bachelor's trust.

Jurors in Stanislaus County Superior Court also found Howard Douglas Porter guilty of attempted murder, embezzlement and elder abuse of Frank Craig.

Prosecutors accused Porter, 57, of staging two auto accidents to cover up his theft of more than $1.1 million from Craig's sizable fortune. Craig had entrusted the minister with funds to build a museum that would show off Craig's collection of antique farming equipment.

The first crash seriously injured Craig and left him unable to walk, and the second -- in April 2004 -- plunged the pair into an irrigation canal where Craig drowned.

Porter faces life in prison without the possibility of parole. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 2.

After spending more than two months in trial, jurors spent less than a day deliberating before returning the guilty verdict.

The minister's defense attorney, Kirk McAllister, said he planned to appeal, and said that although his client was "disappointed," his faith would get him through the coming days.

Porter, who walked away from both wrecks, gave the eulogy at Craig's funeral.

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