WASHINGTON - An airman was acquitted yesterday of killing a U.S. servicewoman, who was beaten and stabbed at a military base in Iceland, to keep her from testifying against him in a theft case.

Airman Calvin Eugene Hill exhaled heavily as the verdict was announced at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington. A military jury also found Hill not guilty of obstruction of justice.

Hill, 21, of Warren, Ohio, had faced the death penalty if convicted in the death of Airman First Class Ashley Turner.

Turner, 20, of Frederick, Md., was found beaten and stabbed in a dormitory lounge at the now-closed Naval Air Station in Keflavik, Iceland, on Aug. 14, 2005. Prosecutors argued that Hill killed Turner because she was set to testify against him eight days later at a court-martial on larceny charges.

Hill was accused of stealing about $2,700 from Turner by making ATM withdrawals using her card and personal identification number.

Hill's lawyers suggested the killing could have been carried out by others, including Turner's boyfriend. He was facing a court-martial on drug charges, and she knew of his drug use, they said.

A jury of 14 Air Force officers and enlisted personnel deliberated for more than 5 hours . Hill has pleaded guilty to charges related to the theft .

Turner's father, Larry Turner, was visibly dismayed.

"We're really disappointed," Larry Turner said. "I'm afraid for society. There's a killer out there. My daughter's dead, and someone did it." *