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Murder Trial Begins for Man Accused in 1990 Point Loma Stabbing of Navy Sailor

SAN DIEGO - A man accused of fatally stabbing a Navy sailor at the victim's Point Loma residence more than three decades ago was tied to the crime through DNA evidence, a prosecutor told jurors today, but the defendant's attorney said the killing was an act of self-defense.

Brian Koehl, 52, is charged in the killing of 31-year-old Larry Joe Breen, whose body was discovered on May 25, 1990.

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 located near a broken-out window.

Though the case went cold, Deputy District Attorney Lisa Fox said 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 Koehl as a suspect and his DNA was matched to the blood stain, beer bottle, and numerous other items throughout the home. Monday's opening statements and testimony did not reveal what that lead was.

Koehl's attorney, Alicia Freeze, said her client was sexually assaulted by Breen and acted in self-defense.

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, Breen ``preyed on the vulnerability of this young sailor.''

Freeze asked jurors to consider why Breen was nude and alleged Breen had a penchant for grooming young men and viewed Koehl as a ``conquest.'' ``Brian Koehl was sexually violated and in defending himself, a life was lost,'' Freeze said.

Koehl was arrested last year in Knoxville, Tennessee, and admitted to police that he was at the home on the night before Breen was found dead.

Fox said Koehl told investigators that he was friends with Breen and had been drinking at the home with the victim and four other people. He left the home that night and borrowed Breen's car. When he returned the next day to give 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 of the broken window, Fox said.

He left the home in Breen's vehicle, which was found abandoned more

than a mile away from the crime scene. Fox said that according to 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 Koehl told a friend of his in 1992 that he'd killed someone.

Koehl told the friend ``a guy came onto him'' and he stabbed him, then tried to clean up his prints from the home.

Koehl's friend did not immediately tell police, but told his wife years later, who insisted they report it, according to Fox. However, Koehl's friend did not recall the correct city where the murder occurred, and the case remained unsolved.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

 

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