A man convicted of fatally stabbing a Navy sailor at the victim’s Point Loma residence more than three decades ago was sentenced Friday to 16 years to life in state prison.
A San Diego jury found Brian Scott Koehl, 52, guilty of second-degree murder in the killing of 31-year-old Larry Joe Breen.
Breen’s body was discovered on May 25, 1990 in the backyard of his Locust Street home covered in blood and with stab wounds to his neck.
The case went cold but genetic genealogy allowed investigators decades later to link Koehl to DNA found at the murder scene. Koehl was arrested last year in Tennessee.
At trial, his defense attorney, Alicia Freeze, argued her client — then a “naive,” 19-year-old “small town boy from Ohio” — acted in self- defense after Breen sexually assaulted him.
At Koehl’s sentencing hearing, Deputy District Attorney Lisa Fox alleged Koehl was contacted by law enforcement on multiple occasions over the years and gave constantly shifting accounts in an attempt to evade arrest.
The prosecutor said Koehl denied any involvement to Naval Criminal Investigative Service officers in the 90s and when he was arrested last year, he told investigators that he was at Breen’s home, but left and returned the next day to find Breen dead.
Regarding his account of the events at trial, Fox said, “He turned Larry Breen into a monster, which he was not.”
The prosecutor said that according to Breen’s family, the victim was “a gentle man” and had a nonviolent demeanor, so much so that his decision to enter the military surprised his sister.
Breen was 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.
“The defendant was lucky. He had 33 years living as a free man. The Breen family have waited 33 years for justice,” Fox said.
Koehl’s defense attorney asked a judge Friday to impose probation with a suspended prison sentence.
Freeze, who called her client “a man of high integrity,” said Koehl lived for more than three decades crime-free. Koehl’s wife, two of his children, and a longtime friend also asked San Diego Superior Court Judge Kimberlee Lagotta for leniency.
Koehl addressed the judge as well, saying “I’m extremely distraught for the loss of Larry Breen’s life. There’s not a day that I’ve not thought about it and it’s haunted me … I’ve lived an honest life. I love my family, my friends, and I’ve served my country with great pride and honor. Please look at all the good I’ve done and still want to do in imposing your sentence.”
Lagotta sentenced Koehl to 16 years to life, which was the maximum possible prison term. The judge noted the jury rejected a self-defense argument in convicting him of murder and said she was troubled by the varying accounts Koehl offered police over the years.
“To Mr. Koehl’s family and friends, I hear your pain,” the judge said. “I’m not minimizing your pain, however, the defendant killed Mr. Breen in an absolutely horrific manner. The defendant, unlike Mr. Breen, had the opportunity to marry twice, to have children, to work in an employment that he enjoyed, and to enjoy family and friends.”