Two Los Angeles residents were sentenced Monday to lengthy state prison terms in the 1998 killing of a German tourist during an attempted robbery in Santa Monica.
Lamont Santos, 23, was ordered to spend 35 years to life in prison for the first-degree murder and attempted robbery of Horst Fietze, 50, who had been strolling with his wife and friends near the beach when they were attacked.
Tyrina Griffin, 20, was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison for second-degree murder by Superior Court Judge Lance Ito, who presided over their nonjury trial.
A third defendant, Roshana Roberts, 21, who was also convicted of second-degree murder, is scheduled to be sentenced May 22.
The three opted to have Ito render the verdict rather than a jury in exchange for lighter sentences. Santos could have otherwise faced life without the possibility of parole.
A fourth suspect in the case, 22-year-old Los Angeles resident Paul Carpenter, remains at large.
On the night of Oct. 12, 1998, the defendants, who had been driving a stolen vehicle, came upon the German tourists, who were returning to their hotel from the beach, Deputy Dist. Atty. Anthony Manzella said.
Everyone except Roberts got out of the car and accosted Horst Fietze; his wife, Astrid; and their traveling companions, Gisela and Jurgen Ulber, with intentions to rob them, Manzella said.
During a struggle, Santos killed Fietze.
"Astrid Fietze testified that her husband never touched Santos," Manzella said.
Manzella said Monday that Fietze's widow wrote Ito a letter expressing her dismay at Santos' contention at trial that he accidentally shot her husband only after he reached for the gun. "She reiterated the fact that she is still suffering emotional distress, emotional trauma," Manzella said.
Santos' attorney, Cary Weiss, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the sentences.
He said he still believes entering into the agreement with the district attorney was best for his client.
"You have to understand, if a person is convicted of felony murder with special circumstance, there is no chance for parole," Weiss said. "[Now] he could be out whenever they grant him parole after doing 85% of his time, at least."