A jury in Santa Ana has recommended the death penalty for Hilbert Pineil Thomas, who was convicted last month of killing two people in Stanton and stealing the car of one victim.
The 42-year-old is scheduled to be formally sentenced on April 25.
"I'm happy it's over and happy with the verdict," reacted the husband of one victim.
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.
Thomas drove off in 49-year-old Palmer's Lexus sedan, prompting Senior Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh to observe he only murdered the pair "because he wanted a nice car." He was a real estate salesman who needed a car to get around, Baytieh said of Thomas.
The same jury that recommended death for Thomas had found him guilty of two counts of murder with special circumstances of multiple murders, murder during a robbery and murder during a burglary. He was also convicted of second-degree robbery, second-degree commercial burglary and car theft, all felonies.
"It's been a long haul over the last month with this (trial)," Richard Palmer, the late Elizabeth's husband, told City News Service. "It drains you … being here seeing (crime scene) photos. I'm so glad it came out this way.''
"Nothing they said could change the fact that Beth is gone, but at least justice is served," said Patrica Moore, Elizabeth's sister.
Baytieh called the jury's death penalty recommendation "absolutely, categorically the right thing. What he did was beyond horrendous, and for that he deserves the ultimate punishment."
Thomas' attorneys declined comment.