The death penalty trial for a 42-year-old Garden Grove man accused of murdering a Stanton sales associate and his longtime secretary is scheduled to begin in Santa Ana this morning. Hilbert Pineil Thomas faces two felony counts of special circumstances murder for multiple murders, murder during the commission of robbery, murder during the commission of burglary, second degree robbery, second degree commercial burglary and the unlawful taking of a vehicle.
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 allegedly walked back to the office and shot Matthew Francis Scott, a sales associate and son of the business co-owner, and Elizabeth Ann Palmer, the longtime secretary, execution style in the head.
Thomas is accused of then stealing Palmer's Lexus sedan and fleeing the scene. No suspect was identified initially but, in an unrelated case, Thomas was served a protective order by the Orange County Sheriff's Department on Oct. 13, 2009, barring him from having contact with his ex-wife after her car was set on fire in Los Angeles County. A term of the protective order was turning over all of his firearms to law enforcement.
On Oct. 24, 2009, Palmer's Lexus was found parked at the El Dorado Inn on Lincoln Avenue in Anaheim. Two days later, Thomas turned over a firearm to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department to comply with the protective order.
On Oct. 28, 2009, Orange County sheriff's investigators determined that Thomas had been in possession of the stolen Lexus, and further investigation revealed he had recently been contacted by LA County sheriff's deputies.
Investigators then linked the firearm Thomas had given up to the murders of Scott and Palmer, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office.