A jury on Tuesday pushed a Garden Grove man closer to Death Row.
Hilbert Pineil Thomas was found guilty of fatally shooting a salesman and a secretary in a Stanton business to steal a Lexus, setting up the death penalty phase of the trial starting next Tuesday, when the same jurors must decide whether the 42-year-old should get a death sentence.
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 defendant's attorney, Constance Istratescu of the Orange County Public Defender's Office, argued that her client was a depressed alcoholic whose life was spiraling down. A "family man" who loves children, Thomas suffered through a failed marriage and a sagging real estate market that led to depression and mood swings, Istratescu added.
The jury convicted Thomas 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.
Jurors "will now consider the aggravating and mitigating circumstances of the evidence to determine the defendant's penalty, death or life without the possibility of parole," according to a statement from the Orange County District Attorney's office.