PALMER (AP) -- A jury convicted an 18-year-old Wasilla man of first- and second-degree murder Wednesday in the death of Wesley Morton in a Wasilla playground two years ago.
Garrett Osborn, who also was convicted of tampering with physical evidence, was one of three teens who played a role in Morton's death. On Tuesday, after a two-week-long trial in Superior Court in Palmer, jurors were asked to decide whether that role was murder or assault.
In closing statements, prosecutors argued Osborn should be convicted of murder, but defense attorney Greg Heath maintained another teen landed the fatal blows.
While the extent of Osborn's role in the killing was disputed, the gruesomeness of Morton's death is not.
Morton's battered body was found Oct. 8, 1998, in the Wonderland Playground in Wasilla. He had been beaten, and stabbed in the chest, and had suffered broken ribs, a ruptured spleen, torn pancreas and a dislocated knee caused, prosecutors said, when the teens positioned part of his leg on a wood plank then jumped on it. He'd also had initials carved into one of his legs.
Three people, including Osborn, were arrested. Jonathan David Walker, 18, pleaded no contest to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 70 years in prison. Matthew McWaters, now 21, pleaded no contest to manslaughter and agreed to testify at Osborn's trial in exchange for a 15-year sentence.
Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak argued Osborn played a central role in the killing. In a statement shortly after his arrest, Osborn told officers he was responsible for 90 percent of the beating and described in detail how he knocked Morton down and repeatedly kicked him.
''He basically said 'This was my show,''' Kalytiak said. ''It was me that took care of Wesley Morton.''
The three had run across Morton, 42, by chance. Who started the fight was not clear.
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