Court finds woman who killed man for stolen Beatles poster not guilty

A woman who arranged to have a man killed because she believed he had stolen a Beatles poster he once gave her has been found not guilty of first-degree murder.

Kathryn B. Kelly, 31, burst into tears, put both hands over a wide smile and whispered, "Thank you so much," to the Spokane County Superior Court jury as the verdict was announced Thursday. The Spokesman-Review newspaper reported.

Prosecutors said Kelly was homeless and broke before Robert "Bud" Johnson let her move in with him. They had a brief romantic relationship and he gave her a framed Beatles poster with a celebrity autograph as a Valentine's Day present in February 2006.

The relationship cooled and soon afterward he asked her to return the poster so he could sell it on eBay. She refused, and the poster was taken in a burglary the next month at her cousin's home, where she was staying.

Within days, Johnson was reported missing. Court records say the cousin, Robert A. Entel told police that he and another man tied his hands, strangled him and banged his head on the floor before driving him to the Spokane River and throwing him in.

Kelly denied asking the men to kill Johnson, and defense lawyer Richard W. Sanger argued that the only hard evidence in the case pointed to Entel and Donald L. Smylie-Lyle as the killers.

Entel pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors sparing him a life prison term. Smylie-Lyle's trial is set for July 9.