The Pierce County Superior Court verdicts yesterday followed a three-week trial and a day of deliberations in the bizarre case of Christopher Ryan Baber, 20, and Jeremy Lee Meyers, 22, infantrymen with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment.
Meyers was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the strangling of his wife, Jessica Lynn Meyers, 21, in July 2003. Baber, charged with the same offenses, was convicted of first-degree manslaughter.
Sentencing was set for December.
Prosecutors Jim Schacht and Steve Penner told jurors Meyers enlisted Baber in July 2003 to join him in a plot to kill his wife so he could collect life insurance and run off with his 15-year-old girlfriend.
According to the prosecution, Meyers and Baber told her the "Federation," a paramilitary group, wanted to kill her and said they needed to fake her death to throw off the group's pursuit.
Meyers' lawyers, Dino Sepe and Michael Kawamura, said the killing was done by Baber alone.
After his arrest, Baber told investigators he strangled Jessica Meyers with a bungee cord, but during the trial he testified that he was stunned when he saw her husband choke her.
He said he believed his Army buddy's claims about the "Federation" wanting to kill her and also thought they were only going to make it look as though she were dead — a plan with which she agreed to go along.
Baber's lawyer, Ann Stenberg, said her client was swept up by Meyers' fantasy and the force of what she described as the married man's sociopathic, manipulative personality.
"The truth is weird, and (prosecutors) wanted to simplify and streamline this case," Stenberg said, "but it couldn't be done, because their truth doesn't exist."