VIRGINIA BEACH, JULY 15 -- Michael Diehl was convicted today of four charges, including first-degree murder, in the beating death of his adopted son. He faces up to 41 years in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Diehl's wife, Karen, is on trial on the same charges in an adjoining courtroom.
The Diehls, who are fundamentalist Christians, and their 17 natural and adopted children had been living in a bus during a camping trip around the country, when their emotionally disturbed son, Dominic J. (Andrew) Diehl, 13, died while living in Virginia Beach.
The charges on which Michael Diehl was convicted by the Circuit Court jury and the recommended sentences were first-degree murder, 20 years; abduction, 10 years; felony child neglect, 10 years; and misdemeanor assault, 12 months and a $1,000 fine.
Judge Edward W. Hanson set sentencing for Sept. 1 and allowed Diehl, 42, to remain free on $45,000 bond. His attorney, Paul Sutton II, said he plans to appeal.
In the next courtroom, Karen Diehl, 36, testified today that she hit the child once in the head with a stick three days before he fell into a coma, describing how she tapped Andrew lightly with a stick on the top of his head Oct. 21 when he refused to use the toilet.
"He did not say ouch. He did not cry out. He did not lose consciousness. He got up and he gave me a kiss," she said.
"Other than that one time I don't ever remember bonking Andrew in the head," she said.
The prosecution contends that the 13-year-old boy died Oct. 29 from hemorrhaging blows to the head with a blunt object. He was hospitalized in a coma Oct. 24.
The double trials are the first Circuit Court jury trials at which coverage by news photographers and the electronic media were allowed.