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SIMI MAN FOUND GUILTY IN SLAYING : SONGWRITER FACES POSSIBLE LIFE SENTENCE IN KILLING OF NEIGHBOR.

Byline: Christopher Noxon Daily News Staff Writer

Christopher Harbridge, a 27-year-old aspiring songwriter who shot and killed his Simi Valley neighbor after a long and bitter feud, was found guilty Friday of first-degree murder.

A jury deliberated two days before reaching the verdict, which was read in a courtroom filled with the families of Harbridge and Ron Rowe, the 30-year-old handyman who was fatally shot Nov. 28.

After the verdict was read, Harbridge turned his chair away from the judge and stared at his family, his face set in a frown. His father, John, tilted his head back, closed his eyes and said, ``Oh God.''

As he was led out of the courtroom, Christopher Harbridge slowed his pace in front of Rowe's family and extended both middle fingers.

Rowe's father, John, who had testified that Harbridge had killed his son after waiting in front of their house with a .357-caliber Magnum hidden behind his back, said Harbridge deserves to spend the rest of life behind bars.

``I will make it my life's work to make sure he stays incarcerated,'' John Rowe said. ``This has restored my faith in justice.''

When he is sentenced April 18, Harbridge faces a term of 25 years to life for first-degree murder and 10 more years for using a firearm.

During the weeklong trial, Harbridge testified that he fired to protect himself after Rowe lunged at him with a canister of pepper spray fitted with an inch-long hacksaw blade.

But prosecutor James Ellison called that version ``poppycock,'' and said the location of a spilled coffee cup and a dropped cigarette butt backed up John Rowe's testimony that his son was ambushed.

``It became clear that Christopher Harbridge was lying,'' Ellison said. ``The jurors looked for any evidence that contradicted the victim's father, and they couldn't find it.''

Ellison said that Harbridge's gesture as he was led from the courtroom demonstrates that he deserves a stiff sentence.

``That just shows what kind of person he is,'' Ellison said. ``It illustrates that he doesn't have one bit of remorse about what he did.''

Christopher Harbridge and Ron Rowe were former classmates who had a longstanding feud well known to police and neighbors. Police said their arguments included disputes over an old steering wheel, a broken camper window and a missing light bulb.

John Harbridge, a retired police officer, released a statement after his son was charged saying he ``was defending himself against what he felt was sure death against this crazed attacker.''

The Harbridge family declined to comment following the verdict.

Rowe's two brothers, John and Dan, said the verdict would help their family come to terms with the death.

``It's not exactly closure, but it's a good start,'' John Rowe said. ``We've just got to try to keep going. It will be easier knowing Ron has finally got the justice he's been looking for.''
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 22, 1997
Words:478
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