Martial arts expert convicted of killing British scientist

Posted: Thursday, May 25, 2000

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A martial arts expert was convicted of second-degree murder Wednesday at his third trial for strangling a renowned scientist from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Paul Cain, 28, was found guilty of killing geophysicist Stanley Runcorn while the 73-year-old professor was in San Diego to organize an academic conference for the Vatican in 1995. Cain was cleared of first-degree murder and robbery charges.

The jury deadlocked at Cain's first trial in 1997. Eight months later, he was convicted of first-degree murder, but that conviction was overturned on the grounds that the trial judge allowed too much testimony about previous allegations of violence.

''I expect we will be back here for another trial,'' Cain's lawyer, Robert Howell, said Wednesday. ''We believed there was going to be a better result.''

Cain, a black belt in karate and competitive kickboxer, doesn't deny that he battered and strangled Runcorn. He testified that he flew into an uncontrollable rage when Runcorn made what Cain said was an aggressive sexual advance.

Prosecutors argued that Cain targeted Runcorn as an easy mark for a robbery and noted that Runcorn's wallet was never found.

Cain faces 15 years to life in prison at his sentencing July 7.

Runcorn, a visiting professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks at the time, once headed the physics department at Newcastle University in England, and he served as an adviser to Pope John Paul II.

Runcorn published 27 books and was considered one of the world's leading experts on plate tectonics, the field that focuses on how the continents formed.

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