Pegye, during a boating trip in July 1997. He faces life without the
possibility of parole after he is sentenced March 16.
Jurors also found Bechler guilty of a special circumstance of "lying
in wait," and determined that he attacked her suddenly in an unsuspecting
moment. Jurors, however, acquitted Bechler of a charge that he murdered
for financial gain.
Prosecutors had argued that Bechler wanted to get his hands on his
wife's life insurance policies worth $2.5 million. Bechler had
continually denied those charges and claimed that his wife, an expert
swimmer and triathlete, was swept underwater by a large wave when she was
driving their rented 18-foot speedboat while towing him on a bodyboard.
Her body was never found.
On Thursday, Pegye Bechler's mother, June Marshall, reacted instantly,
bending down and weeping softly, when the verdict was read in the packed
courtroom at about 11 a.m. Pegye's sisters and best friend Glenda Mason
also turned around to comfort each other, tears glistening in their eyes.
Members of Pegye Bechler's family said they were too overwhelmed and
emotional even to talk or comment.
"We've been devastated for 3 1/2 years" Marshall said as she tried to
hold back tears. "It's been really hard. . . . We just have to keep
dealing with this."
Bechler showed no reaction as he sat staring straight ahead as the
verdict was read. His mother, Linda Bechler, who sat outside the
courtroom all seven days during jury deliberations, was comforted by her
family members. She said she believes the jury came out with the "wrong
She criticized her son's former girlfriend Tina New, who cooperated
with investigators to secretly record her conversations with Bechler in a
crowded restaurant when he admitted to the murder. Bechler was arrested
that night in October 1999.
"We all know what Tina New is," Linda Bechler said Thursday. "It goes
Eric Bechler's aunt Gail Bechler said she believes her nephew is
innocent and that she feels sorry for his three children.
"They lost their mother. Now they've lost their father," she said.