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Man gets death penalty for execution-style double murder in O.C.

Man sentenced to the death Friday for the double-execution murder because he wanted to steal a Lexus

A Garden Grove man was sentenced to death Friday for the double-execution murders of a Stanton sales associate and his longtime secretary because he wanted to steal a Lexus from their business.

After hearing how Hilbert Pineil Thomas, 43, "blew their brains out for a car," jurors on March 12 recommended that he get the death penalty for the Feb. 2, 2009, slayings.

He was previously convicted in the special circumstance murders of Matthew Francis Scott, a sales associate and son of the business co-owner, and longtime secretary Elizabeth Ann Palmer.

In a letter read to the court prior to sentencing, Palmer’s sister, Patricia Moore, told Thomas: "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."

The deadly sequence of events began when Thomas walked past Golden Sun Homes business office on Beach Boulevard in Stanton while taking his niece to school. He lived about 500 feet from the business.

Prosecutors say Thomas decided to murder the employees inside in order to steal a Lexus belonging to a secretary for the business.

After dropping off his niece, Thomas entered Golden Sun Homes and shot and killed Scott and Palmer, 49. Jurors heard how he shot both victims execution-style in the head before stealing the Lexus sedan and fleeing.

Initially, the coldblooded slayings remained a mystery. But in an unrelated case, Thomas was served with a protective order by Orange County Sheriff's Department in October 2009, barring him from having contact with his ex-wife after having set her car on fire in Los Angeles County.

As a term of the protective order, Thomas was ordered to turn over all of his firearms to police.

Then on Oct. 24, 2009, after months of searching for Palmer’s vehicle, police found the stolen Lexus 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. Within a couple of days, detectives connected Thomas to the stolen vehicle and began investigating him for the murders.

A check on Thomas’ background showed he recently turned over a firearm to sheriff's officials and forensic testing tied the weapon to the slayings.

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