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Man Found Guilty in 1990 Point Loma Killing of Navy Sailor

Man Found Guilty in 1990 Point Loma Killing of Navy Sailor

File photo of a judge's gavel. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

City News Service

City News Service

10/20/2023

Updated: 10/20/2023

SAN DIEGO—A man charged with fatally stabbing a Navy sailor at the victim’s Point Loma residence more than three decades ago was convicted Oct. 19 of second-degree murder.
A San Diego jury found Brian Scott Koehl, 52, guilty in the killing of 32-year-old Larry Joe Breen, whose body was discovered on May 25, 1990.
Mr. Breen, a petty officer and cook stationed aboard the USS Fox CG-33 who was slated to be then-President George Bush’s chef at Camp David, was stabbed twice in the neck and found slumped against a fence in the backyard of his Locust Street home. The victim was nude, covered in blood, and his body was located near a broken-out window.
Though the case went cold, Deputy District Attorney Lisa Fox said Mr. Koehl, who was also in the Navy at the time, was tied to the scene via DNA initially found in a blood stain and on a beer bottle inside the home.
The prosecutor said that in 2019, “an investigative lead” led police to identify Mr. Koehl as a suspect and his DNA was matched to the blood stain, beer bottle, and numerous other items throughout the home.
Investigators utilized genetic genealogy to reexamine the case, identifying Mr. Koehl as the suspect and then matching his DNA from a discarded fast-food restaurant cup to evidence at the scene. The method was perhaps most notably used to identify the Golden State Killer, while locally, investigators are using genetic genealogy more and more to identify suspects in murder investigations that have long gone dormant.
Mr. Koehl’s attorney, Alicia Freeze, argued her client was sexually assaulted by Mr. Breen and acted in self-defense.
Ms. Freeze, who described Koehl as a “naive,” 19-year-old “small town boy from Ohio” at the time, said that from the moment they met, Mr. Breen “preyed on the vulnerability of this young sailor.”
Ms. Freeze asked jurors to consider why Mr. Breen was nude and alleged Mr. Breen had a penchant for grooming young men and viewed Mr. Koehl as a “conquest.”
“Brian Koehl was sexually violated and in defending himself, a life was lost,” Ms. Freeze said.
Mr. Koehl was arrested last year in Knoxville, Tennessee, and admitted to police that he was at the home on the night before Mr. Breen was found dead.
Ms. Fox said Mr. Koehl told investigators that he was friends with Mr. Breen and had been drinking at the home with the victim and four other people. He left the home that night and borrowed Mr. Breen’s car. When he returned the next day to give Mr. Breen’s car back, he came upon the grisly murder scene.
He admitted to getting blood on his feet and washing them off in the shower. He also told police he cut his arm while looking out the broken window, Ms. Fox said.
He left the home in Mr. Breen’s vehicle, which was found abandoned more than a mile away from the crime scene. Ms. Fox said that according to Mr. Koehl, he ditched the vehicle after realizing he couldn’t be seen in a dead man’s car.
While it took more than three decades to arrest a suspect, the prosecutor said Mr. Koehl told a friend of his in 1992 that he'd killed someone.
Mr. Koehl told the friend “a guy came onto him” and he stabbed him, then tried to clean up his prints from the home.
Mr. Koehl’s friend did not immediately tell police, but told his wife years later, who insisted they report it, according to Ms. Fox. However, he did not recall the correct city where the murder occurred, and the case remained unsolved.
Mr. Koehl was out of custody on $500,000 bail through the trial, but was booked into county jail following Thursday’s verdict. He faces 16 years to life in state prison at sentencing, which is scheduled for next month.
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