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Man Sentenced to Prison in Father’s Death : Court: The victim, a retired LAPD officer, had boasted of being the inspiration for a TV police action series.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Littlerock man was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison on Wednesday for the arson death of his adoptive father, a retired Los Angeles police officer who had claimed he was the inspiration for the TV action series “T. J. Hooker.”

David Warren Hooker, 33, was convicted in June of setting fire to his father’s home in an insurance-fraud scheme that caused the elder Hooker’s death from smoke inhalation. His stepmother, Joy Girard Hooker, 51, faces trial later this month on similar charges of murder and arson.

Police contend the two co-defendants were lovers.

Hooker had maintained throughout the case that he never intended to kill his father, Thomas Warren Hooker, but only cause enough property damage to collect some insurance money and stave off foreclosure. His lawyer repeated that assertion after the sentencing Wednesday, saying the ailing ex-policeman would not have died as a result of the “half-baked scheme” if he had not also suffered from asthma and emphysema.

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“Oddly enough, he was trying to perform CPR on his father when the paramedics got there,” attorney Williams Ringgold said. “It was not just like they callously let the guy burn up inside.”

But a Superior Court jury was not persuaded, convicting Hooker June 6 of murder, arson to a structure and arson causing great bodily injury.

In sentencing Hooker in Downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday, Judge Harvey Schneider also ordered him to serve nine years each on the arson charges--to run concurrently with the murder sentence. Hooker made no statements because, as Ringgold said: “We just felt there was no point. The judge was going to do what he was going to do.”

Described as extremely intelligent but always troubled, Hooker spent a decade in federal prison for bank robbery and threatening President George Bush while incarcerated. He had been out of prison just over six months when he set the fatal fire.

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Thomas Hooker, a retired LAPD sergeant, was once awarded the department’s Medal of Valor for rescuing others from a burning building and had boasted of inspiring the jaded TV cop played by William Shatner. (The show’s creator denied it, saying the role was purely fictional.)

But at the end of his life he was legally blind and bedridden by diabetes and frequent kidney dialysis sessions, and authorities charged he had been left to die by his wife and son, whom they accused of making no attempt to save him.

Ringgold said Wednesday the elder Hooker opened his bedroom door when he smelled the smoke, only to inhale more smoke and collapse on the floor. He was 58.


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