An East County jury found James Kurtenbach guilty of several charges on Tuesday but hopelessly deadlocked on a count of murder.
The verdicts were read at the El Cajon courthouse at 1:45 p.m. On the most serious charge, second-degree murder, the jury told the judge they were hopelessly deadlocked, but the deliberations did result in multiple convictions for counts ranging from conspiracy to commit arson to arson causing great bodily injury.
The foreman told Judge Herbert Exarhos that jurors were unable to reach a verdict on the murder count, despite having taken 8-10 ballots. The judge was also told that on the murder charge, there were seven votes to convict and five for acquittal. Exarhos declared a mistrial on that count.
Throughout the reading of the verdicts, Kurtenbach, dressed in an open-collared red-white-and-blue shirt, betrayed little emotion, other than to sigh deeply after he was found guilty of conspiracy to commit arson, the first verdict the foreman read.
Joseph Nesheiwat, 24, died in an explosion at Kurtenbach's Mount Woodson home in the on Oct. 31, 2008. The county's chief medical examiner testified during a preliminary hearing that 85 percent of Nesheiwat's body was covered with burns. Only remnants of a shirt collar and a sock and shoe were left after the explosion.
Kurtenbach, who reportedly owed more than $50,000 in property taxes, stood to collect more than $900,000 in insurance money, according to prosecutors.
After the verdicts were read, prosecutors told Exarhos they believed Kurtenbach was a flight risk and asked for $4 million bail. Exarhos, however, went a step further and ordered Kurtenbach held without bail.
Outside court, Nesheiwat's mother, Terry Sellers said justice was served, but she added that despite the jury's decision on the murder charge, she thought Kurtenbach should be given a life sentence.
It is now up to the district attorney's office whether to pursue a retrial on the second-degree murder count. Jurors said the credibility of some of the witnesses called by the prosecution hindered the D.A.'s case on that charge.
Kurtenbach's defense attorney said he is preparing for another trial.