CHIANG MAI, Thailand (Reuters) - A Canadian woman was sentenced to 3-1/2 years in a Thai jail on Thursday for killing her American partner, who claimed be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and faced a spate of fraud charges in Hawaii.
Margaret Crane, 50, got two years for killing George Patrick Dubie, 56, after a quarrel at a restaurant in the northern city of Chiang Mai in 2006 and 1-1/2 years for possessing and carrying a pistol in public.
“The court views that the defendant committed the crime as charged, but did it in a rage after being provoked, pressured and beaten,” Judge Thanakorn Pusayapaiboon said as he read out the verdict.
“Therefore the sentence is lower than what is stated in the law,” he said, adding her confession helped halve the murder penalty to two years in jail.
Canadian newspapers described the pair as a 21st century “Bonnie and Clyde” -- an American couple and gang notorious for their robberies on banks, small stores and gas stations in the central United States in the mid-1930s.
Crane told the police after she was arrested that Dubie -- who claimed to be a part-time CNN correspondent and to have worked for the United Nations in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami -- was abusive and hit her and their six children.
Their relationship worsened when he became involved with a Thai woman, Thai newspapers reported.
Crane told the court she used a revolver she took from him during a scuffle, but did not know how many shots she fired. A police forensic report said only one bullet was found in his body.
Crane, who never married Dubie but traveled with him across Canada, to Hawaii and Thailand over 28 years, was also dubbed by Canadian newspapers as his “most devoted disciple.”
Crane told the court she went to see Dubie at a restaurant to get cash he promised to give her and their six children during a stay in Thailand, but he abused her verbally and said their youngest daughter was not his.
FBI Special Agent Dan McLaughlin, who investigated Dubie in Hawaii in 2001, called him “a David Koresh-type figure” -- the leader of a Branch Davidian religious sect who was killed in a fire in a 1993 ranch raid along with 53 adults and 21 children.
“I would describe him as a classic fraudster, a swindler with an uncanny ability to capture the minds of individuals who weren’t as strong as he was,” Canada’s National Post quoted McLaughlin as saying in a March 2007 report.
Brian Fujiuchi, a detective in Hawaii when police investigated a cult Dubie ran in the 1980s, told the National Post Dubie brainwashed people into believing “he was Jesus Christ and were handing over their life savings.”
Crane’s Thai lawyer said he was satisfied with the sentence on the murder charge, but would appeal on the firearm penalty as his client did not own or carry the pistol to the restaurant.
Additional Reporting and writing by Nopporn Wong-Anan; Editing by Michael Battye