on a boat and then dumping her body in the ocean in trash bags filled
Bechler has continually pleaded not guilty and maintained that the
July 6, 1997, incident was a "tragic accident."
In Bechler's account, a wave pushed his wife, an expert swimmer and
triathlete, off the rented speedboat that she was driving while towing
him on a bodyboard. Her body was never found.
On Friday, he took one last opportunity to stress his innocence.
"As much as the Marshalls are hurting, my family is also hurting," he
said in reference to his wife's relatives. "I love my wife terribly and I
miss her, and there's nothing else I can say."
His mother, Linda Bechler, said the family is determined to appeal the
"Eric is an innocent victim of a [flawed] system," she said, wiping
away tears. "He thought justice will prevail, but it didn't. . . . He's
still keeping his faith that the appeal will work."
Defense attorney John Barnett said the appeal, to be filed within 60
days of the sentencing, will be based on the argument that a California
court has no jurisdiction over a crime committed in federal or
Another part of the appeal is the "corpus" issue -- a body of evidence
that could be negated because of lack of proof that a crime was
Members of Pegye Bechler's family took the opportunity in court Friday
to flesh out the portrait of a daughter and a sister whose death they
struggled to explain, justify or understand.
In the courtroom, they placed enlarged photos of Pegye Bechler smiling
in each frame -- in a wedding dress, with her children, showing off her
muscular body at the Milkman Triathlon in her hometown of Dexter, N.M.
"She was my cheerleader," said her brother, Larry Marshall, as he
recalled how his sister would send him encouraging quotes during times of
distress or worry.
Pegye Bechler's sister, Kim Marshall, tearfully recalled "silly camp
songs, secret conversations in bathroom stalls and telephone
conversations that didn't begin with formalities."
June Marshall, Pegye's mother, chastised her son-in-law directly and