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Porn Heir Given Max Sentence for '09 Novato Murder

James Mitchell maintains he did not kill his ex-girlfriend, Danielle Keller.

A convicted murderer was sentenced to 35 years to life Tuesday for with a softball bat in a Novato backyard and kidnapping their young daughter two years ago.

James Mitchell, 29, of Pittsburg, was convicted of bludgeoning Keller with an aluminum bat at her Diablo Court home on July 12, 2009, the child's first birthday. He was arrested several hours later when he ran out of money and gas in Citrus Heights, near Sacramento. The daughter was found safe in his car.

Mitchell is the heir to the San Francisco-based Mitchell Brothers adult film business, one of the porn industry’s pioneer dynasties during the 1960s and ‘70s. Mitchell is the son of Jim Mitchell, who started the famous adult entertainment empire with his brother, Artie. Jim Mitchell died of cancer in 2007, 16 years after he killed his brother in Corte Madera.

The July verdict came four years to the day after Mitchell's father died, which Mitchell testified troubled him greatly.

Marin County Superior Court Judge Kelly Simmons sentenced Mitchell to 26 years to life for first-degree murder and use of a weapon and nine years for domestic violence battery and kidnapping. It was the maximum sentence for the crimes.

Mitchell addressed the court Tuesday, again denying he killed Keller. He called the case "a big circus from Day 1." He said he felt unfairly put in the spotlight because of his association with the Mitchell Brothers' porn empire.

"It was nothing but poison in the water and a flock of sheep running over a cliff at the sound of 'James Mitchell,'" he said.

He said he never wanted any part in the family business. "I was just born with my father's name," he said.

Mitchell said he still loves his daughter and Danielle. He testified during the trial that two other men were at the Novato home when he arrived there for his daughter's birthday party on the day of the murder, and said they were responsible for the killing.

The prosecution claimed during the trial that the slaying was the culmination of a series of domestic violence incidents committed by Mitchell against Keller. Mitchell admitted to habitual drug use over a 10-year-period before the killing.

— Bay City News Service

For another account of the sentencing and comments from Danielle Keller’s mother, click here for a story by the Marin Independent Journal.

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