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1999 scuba-diving death in British Virgin Islands was murder, jury says

TORTOLA, British Virgin Islands — A jury convicted a U.S. man of murder Tuesday in the drowning of his wife during a scuba-diving excursion a decade ago, dashing what prosecutors called a bid to get away with a nearly perfect crime.

During the sensational trial, the jury heard accusations that David Swain, 53, killed Shelley Tyre to be with another woman and get his hands on his wife's estimated $630,000 inheritance. Tyre's drowning near an isolated shipwreck at 80 feet was initially ruled an accident, but authorities in the British Virgin Islands charged Swain, of Jamestown, R.I., with murder after a 2006 civil trial in Rhode Island found him responsible for his wife's death. That jury awarded Tyre's family $3.5 million, but Swain filed for bankruptcy and has not paid the sum.

A judge expects to sentence Swain on Nov. 4. He faces life in prison in the sweltering hilltop prison in Tortola, where he has been held for about two years.

After the verdict, the courtroom heard from Shelley Tyre's father.

"We're old, we're in our 80s, and when Shelley was killed, our life pretty much ended," Richard Tyre said in a broken voice.

Defense attorney Timothy Bradl, of the Boston-based firm Denner Pellegrino, said the verdict would be appealed to the Eastern Caribbean Court.

The prosecution presented experts who testified they believed Swain wrestled his wife from behind, tore off her scuba mask and shut off her air supply while they swam near the shipwreck.

Her mask was damaged, the mouthpiece of her snorkel was missing, and her fin found embedded in a sandbar — which prosecution witnesses testified were clear signs of a violent struggle.

1999 scuba-diving death in British Virgin Islands was murder, jury says 10/27/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 11:00pm]
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