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Teen convicted of manslaughter in brutal Central Park slaying

December 4, 1998
Web posted at: 10:50 p.m. EST (0350 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A 16-year-old boy accused of the gruesome slaying of a real estate agent after a night of drinking in Central Park in 1997 was convicted of manslaughter Friday.

Family members of the victim, Michael McMorrow, expressed outrage that jurors opted to convict Christopher Vasquez of manslaughter instead of the more serious charge of second-degree murder.

"How can anyone confuse 35 stab wounds with manslaughter? It's beyond comprehension," said McMorrow's nephew, Matthew McMorrow.

As a juvenile, Vasquez faces a prison term of 3 1/3 years to 10 years when he is sentenced next month.

Vasquez and his former girlfriend, Daphne Abdela, also 16, were accused of repeatedly stabbing McMorrow, 44, gutting his body and dumping it in a Central Park lake in May 1997. The older man had been drinking with the teens in the park before his death.

During the trial, Vasquez's attorneys blamed the slaying on Abdela, the daughter of a wealthy food company executive who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in March.

Defense attorney Arnold Kriss called her "out of control," "cunning" and "manipulative," and said she was making Vasquez the "fall guy" for her actions.

But prosecutor Matthew Bogdanos argued that evidence clearly showed that Vasquez participated in the crime.

The weapon used to kill McMorrow, a knife, was found in Vasquez's room, and his DNA, not Abdela's, was found on the blade.

When the verdict was read, Vasquez showed little emotion. He turned to his family, gave them a faint smile and shrugged. But several of the jurors wept, as did Vasquez's parents and members of the McMorrow family.

Abdela received the maximum 10-year sentence for her role in the slaying.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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