LAS VEGAS (AP) — A jury in Las Vegas found an ex-convict guilty on Friday of conspiracy and murder for killing his girlfriend's husband, a U.S. Air Force service member and Iraq War veteran from Guam, in a bid to collect a $650,000 life insurance windfall.
Michael Rudolph Rodriguez stared straight ahead and showed no emotion as the verdicts were read Friday by Clark County District Court Judge Douglas Herndon.
Rodriguez, 36, also was found guilty of burglary for entering the home garage where Staff Sgt. Nathan Paet was shot five times in December 2010 as he prepared to drive to work at Nellis Air Force Base outside Las Vegas.
The six men and six women deliberated less than two hours. They immediately began a separate proceeding to decide if Rodriguez is also guilty of being an ex-felon in possession of a weapon.
Herndon explained that the weapon charge is considered separately to avoid influencing the murder case.
On Tuesday, the same state court jury will be asked to decide whether Rodriguez should be put to death, or if he'll ever be eligible for parole.
Rodriguez is a two-time felon, convicted of attempted forgery in 2007 and 2008.
Paet's wife, Michelle Antwanette Paet, 33, is due for trial beginning Oct. 2 on murder, conspiracy and burglary charges. She also faces the death penalty if she's convicted.
Nathan Paet was an F-15 supply technician with the 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. He and Michelle Paet were high school sweethearts. He joined the Air Force in 2002. The couple married in 2006 and had four children.
Rodriguez met Michelle Paet while they worked at a telemarketing company in Las Vegas.
Prosecutor Frank Coumou told jurors this week that Michelle Paet planned the slaying with Rodriguez and alerted Rodriguez by text message when her husband was leaving the house.
"He's rushing to get out the door. Lol," one message said.
Two co-defendants, Jessica Ashley and Corry Hawkins, also await trial. Each has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, murder and burglary with a weapon.
Hawkins is accused of accompanying Rodriguez in a black Cadillac seen leaving the scene of the shooting, and police said a witness told them that Rodriguez went to Ashley and Hawkins' apartment and burned his clothes to try to eliminate evidence of the shooting.
Rodriguez's public defense attorneys, Alzora Jackson and Monica Trujillo, told the jury that Rodriguez had nothing to gain from killing Nathan Paet.
Police said Michelle Paet told investigators that she and Rodriguez began planning the slaying in October 2010, and they wanted to be together afterward.