Spurned hubby guilty of lesser charge in teen's slaying

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (AP) --
Eric McLean has admitted that he shot his wife's teen-aged lover but says it was an accident.

1 of 3 Eric McLean, 33, faces a maximum of two to four years in prison in the shooting death of 18-year-old lover Sean Powell outside the McLeans' home in Knoxville.

McLean testified he only wanted to scare Powell away on March 10, 2007, when he approached him with a high-powered rifle. He said the teen grabbed the barrel, and as McLean pulled back with his finger on the trigger, the gun accidentally went off.

When the jury's verdict was read, McLean was shaking as he hugged his lawyer.

He appeared relieved to have avoided a first-degree murder conviction, which carries a mandatory 51 years in prison. Watch the tension in the courtroom as the verdict is read »

The jury deliberated for about 11 hours over two days after hearing six days testimony on the disintegrating 10-year marriage of Eric and Erin McLean, and the three-month affair she had with Powell.

Prosecutors called it a premeditated killing that Eric McLean planned at least two weeks earlier when he stole the 30-caliber rifle and three bullets from his parents' house. Eric McLean said he took the gun and bullets to commit suicide.

Eric McLean's attorney portrayed Powell as "mature beyond his years" and said his client was a victim, too -- still in love with his wife and powerless in his own eyes to win her back.

After his arrest, McLean said in television interviews that the shooting was an accident. He told police during an interrogation that he wasn't even "planning to scare" Powell that night of the shooting.

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McLean told police that Erin admitted she had been seeing Powell for several weeks. When Powell came to the McLeans' small home and refused to leave, McLean called 911. He called off police when the boy made his way to his old Mercedes parked in front of the house.

"After me calling 911, it's just like basically a blur," McLean said during questioning. A video of the session was played in court.

"I remember him like starting to leave and then he didn't," McLean recounted on the tape. "And then I don't know what happened after that."

He told his interrogator, "I just think there is something wrong with me. ... I mean I would never do anything like that and I can't even believe that that happened."

Prosecutors say McLean went to his truck and got a high-powered rifle he claims he took from his parents a few weeks earlier to commit suicide and walked to the car.

Chief Medical Examiner Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan testified a single shot to Powell's head killed the boy. She also spotted a small wound on Powell's right hand that suggested the youth, who had alcohol in his system and cocaine in his urine, tried to block the shot.

McLean also wrote a suicide note and letters of apology, according to testimony.

"I am sorry I took Sean from you," he wrote in a letter to Powell's parents. "I am so sorry for everything. I would hope that one day wounds heal enough for you to move on from this." Crabtree said the Powells were never shown the letter, which was read in court Monday.

Police also found McLean's diary notebooks describing his failing marriage, a suicide letter to his wife and a letter he wrote to Powell.

"You have had my wife for several months," the letter to Powell said. "Now it is clear to me that I've lost my family. I hope you're satisfied. I'm sure Erin will make a fine mother-bride for you."

In his undated suicide letter, McLean wrote Erin: "You are my soulmate. Even when I'm not alive with you any longer, I'll still be part of you. I will always love you more than anything, even when I'm dead."

Erin McLean was questioned by police and has not been charged.