A Garden Grove man received the death penalty as expected from an Orange County Superior Court judge today, but he also heard three unexpected words from the sister of one of two people whose heads he'd blown off: "I forgive you."
According to the Orange County District Attorney's office, a statement from the late Elizabeth Ann Palmer's sister Patricia Moore read, in part: "I have spent over five years wondering what I would say to you when I had the chance. No words can change the outcome of what you've done. I have prayed for the courage to say these words, 'I forgive you.' Not so you can feel better but so my family, Matt's family, your family and I can heal and move forward. May God have mercy on you. It's what's Beth would have wanted."
Forgiveness is all the more amazing when you consider the crime.
After passing the Golden Sun Homes business office on Beach Boulevard in Stanton with his niece and then dropping her off at school the morning of Feb. 2, 2009, Thomas walked back to the office, whipped out a gun and forced Matthew Francis Scott, a 42-year-old sales associate and son of the business co-owner, and Elizabeth Ann Palmer, the longtime secretary, to their knees. Thomas then shot both execution style in the head.
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Thomas drove off in 49-year-old Palmer's Lexus sedan, which the killer/real estate agent coveted "because he wanted a nice car" to drive around, Senior Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh previously told jurors.
The jury in Judge William Froeberg's courtroom on Feb. 11 found 43-year-old Thomas guilty of two felony counts of special circumstances murder for multiple murders, murder during the commission of robbery, and murder during the commission of burglary. He was also found guilty of one felony count each of second degree robbery, second degree commercial burglary, and the unlawful taking of a vehicle.
On March 12, the jury gathered together again to recommend the death penalty.