UPDATED, DEC. 20, 3:51 P.M.: Lance Cpl. Christian William Carney, who besides being a Camp Pendleton Marine was a dealer of cocaine and ecstacy, was convicted today of murdering a fellow Marine who was shot and left to die in a secluded San Clemente ditch because he stole drug money. A Santa Ana jury found the Manorville, New York, 25-year-old guilty of felony counts of murder, criminal threats and attempting to dissuade a witness.
The conviction sets Carney up for a possible sentence of 28 years and eight months to life in state prison at a Jan. 20 hearing.
Yet to face trial for May 2008 murder of 20-year-old Camp Pendleton Pfc. Stephen Serrano is fellow Pfc. Alvin Reed Lovely, 24, of Dallas, Texas. Lovey, who had gone missing from the Marines before the shooting, is charged with one felony count of murder, one felony count of criminal threats, and a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a firearm that could draw a maximum sentence of 38 years to life in state prison with a conviction.
Lovely's jury trial is scheduled for Feb. 3 in the same Santa Ana courtroom.
ORIGINAL POST, DEC. 1, 8:18 A.M.: A Camp Pendleton Marine and dealer of cocaine and ecstacy goes on trial in Santa Ana this morning for allegedly shooting a fellow Marine to death over stolen drug money.
Lance Cpl. Christian William Carney, 25, of Manorville, New York, faces a maximum sentence of 53 years and eight months to life in state prison if he is convicted of the charges against him.
They are: one felony count of murder, one felony count of criminal threats, one felony count of attempting to dissuade a witness, and a sentencing enhancement for the personal discharge of a firearm.
Carney is not alone: co-defendant Alvin Reed Lovely, who was also a Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton when he got busted, faces that same felonies and a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a firearm. If convicted after a yet-to-be scheduled trial, the Dallas, Texas, 24-year-old could get 38 years to life in state prison.
Carney drove to Texas to pick up Pfc. Lovely, who'd gone home for a visit, for a ride back to the base the weekend of May 9, 2008. That's when 20-year-old Pfc. Stephen Serrano and Chad Hatch broke into Carney's room and stole his drug money. When Carney and Lovely returned, a witness told them they had seen Hatch breaking into the room, although Serrano was not named.
On May 13, 2008, Carney and Lovely allegedly drove Hatch to a secluded area of San Clemente, pointed a firearm at his head and threatened to kill him if he did not tell them who had helped him steal the drug money. Hatch is said to have given up Serrano. You can see where this is going: Hatch was taken back to Camp Pendleton, and his phone was used to call Serrano, who eventually met up with the party.
Carney and Lovely are accused of taking Serrano to a secluded area of San Clemente, where he was shot once in the face and three times in the back. The body was left there as Carney and Lovely allegedly fled. Carney is said to have later met with Hatch and told him not to tell anyone what had been done to Serrano.
The body--still in desert fatigues and boots--was found in a drainage ditch by a jogger on May 15, 2008. That same month, Carney was arrested on suspicion of murder and held without bail. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.
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Lovely was arrested at a relative's home in Dallas County after a five-day search. The Marines had been searching for him longer than that. Shortly after arriving at Pendleton, where he served with Carney and Serrano in the 1st Marine Division, Lovely went missing. He was listed as being on an unauthorized absence, one step away from being deemed a deserter.
After being extradited back to California, Lovely pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.
Carney was assigned to the HQ Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. He served in Iraq from March to October 2007 and was awarded a good conduct medal.
Lovely and Serrano, a field radio operator who hailed from Sacramento, had served together in the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. Neither had been deployed to Iraq, they apparently found all the war they would ever need in a secluded area of San Clemente.