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Ex-con Sentenced in Racer’s Murder

March 31, 2000 GMT

PHOENIX (AP) _ A man was sentenced to two life terms without parole Friday for the murder of a championship power boat racer whose body was found in the New Mexico desert four months after he and his airplane vanished.

Bobby Joe Keesee, 65, admitted in U.S. District Court that he shot Harry M. Christensen, who also owned a custom boat business.

To avoid a possible death sentence, Keesee pleaded guilty in November to a number of felonies including air piracy, interference with commerce and murder using a firearm.

The FBI and police were baffled for months as they searched for Christensen’s missing body, even after they arrested Keesee.

Christensen’s blood-soaked twin-engine Cessna 340 was found at Coronado Airport in Albuquerque, N.M., the day after the 48-year-old businessman disappeared.

But it wasn’t until four months later that a rancher stumbled across the body in a remote desert stretch in Sandoval County, N.M.

Keesee met Christensen by responding to an advertisement for Christensen’s plane in January 1999. Christensen met with Keesee twice, once allowing him to fly the plane, before he said he wanted to buy it.

They met at the Lake Havasu airport on Jan. 6, 1999, where Christensen was shot in the chest and the head, authorities say. Keesee shoved the body into the plane’s cabin and took off.

He used Christensen’s credit cards to refuel the plane in Winslow before flying to Albuquerque. Once there, authorities say he borrowed a friend’s van and drove Christensen’s body to the remote desert spot where he dumped it.

Keesee was arrested the next day with Christensen’s rings, Rolex watch and credit cards but refused to tell authorities where Christensen was.

Christensen was a well-known figure in the boat-racing world. He and his son, Jeff, won the Pacific Offshore Powerboat Racing Association season points title in 1997.

Keesee has a long criminal history, with his first conviction dating back to 1962.

He twice served time for posing as a federal official in schemes to obtain airplanes. He also served prison time for attempting to bilk a company in a purchasing scam, for theft of a plane and for conspiracy in the death of a U.S. consul in Hermosillo, Mexico.