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Carney Convicted of Murdering Fellow Marine

A jury finds him guilty in the 2008 murder of Stephen Serrano, 20, Tuesday. Co-defendant awaits trial.

A former Marine was convicted today of murder in connection with the shooting of another Marine in a dispute over stolen drug money.

Christian William Carney, 25, was convicted for the death of 20-year-old Stephen Serrano, who was driven to a secluded area of San Clemente and shot in May 2008. Another former Marine, 24-year-old Alvin Reed Lovely, is still awaiting trial for allegedly taking part in the killing.

In addition to first-degree murder, Carney was convicted of single counts of criminal threats and attempting to dissuade a witness. Jurors did not find true a sentencing enhancement for the personal discharge of a firearm, meaning they did not find enough evidence he was the shooter.

Carney faces up to 28 years and eight months to life in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 20. The sentencing enhancement would have added another 25 years to the punishment.

According to prosecutors, Carney and Lovely suspected Serrano and an accomplice -- Chad Hatch -- had broken into Carney's room at Camp Pendleton and stolen money Carney made by selling cocaine and ecstasy. When they discovered the theft, Carney and Lovely drove Hatch to a secluded San Clemente area, pointed a gun at his head and threatened to kill him, prosecutors said.

When Hatch pointed a finger at Serrano, the pair took him to another area and shot him once in the face and three times in the back, according to Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh.

Carney then met with Hatch and told him not to discuss what happened to Serrano, Baytieh said.

Lovely is scheduled to go on trial Feb. 3.

Carney's mother sobbed in the courtroom and mumbled, "No, no, that's not right," as the verdicts were read.

One juror said there wasn't enough evidence to prove who shot Serrano, but he found Carney culpable because he should have known murder was possible with Lovely bringing a gun to the confrontations.

"Common sense tells you something volatile would happen," said the juror, who did not want to be identified.

Baytieh agreed.

"There's no way he had no idea what was going on," Baytieh said.

Carney's attorney, Jennifer Keller, argued during the trial that Carney did not know Lovely would shoot Serrano.

"We're very disappointed because (co-counsel Kay Rackauckas) and I believed in Christian (Carney)," Keller said. "We thought that his testimony rang very true. This was really a case of somebody picking the wrong company and now he'll suffer for it for the rest of his life."

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