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Fugitive in murder case caught, sentenced to 32 years to life in prison

January 3, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
It has been more than 14 years since the murder of a German tourist during a robbery in Santa Monica. Three people are already in prison for the crime. Thursday the fourth was finally sentenced.

It was October 1998 when German tourist Horst Fietz put up a fight for his backpack and was shot to death during what was supposed to be a fun California vacation. He was one of four tourists returning from the Santa Monica Pier. They were accosted outside the Loews Hotel by a group of people that pulled up in a car.

"This was probably one of the first events that kind of broke or shattered that sense of calm or that sense of serenity in Santa Monica," said L.A. County Deputy District Attorney Bobby Grace.

Lamont Santos, who is now serving a prison sentence of 35 years to life, pulled the trigger. Two others involved in the murder and attempted robbery had already been sentenced. But one suspect got away and went into hiding for years. He was arrested in 2009.

Paul Carpenter is that suspect. He was dealt his sentence Thursday in court: 32 years to life.

"He was deserving of a first-degree murder sentence because he not only got out of the car, he actually put his hands on one of the victims and had tried to rob that particular person," said Grace.

Carpenter was tracked down by a law enforcement task force in Jamaica, where he had been living for a decade.

Carpenter's attorney asked the judge to consider what he called his exemplary behavior in the years since the murder.

"He had a job. He had a young child. As far as I know of, he got in no trouble during that particular time," said defense attorney Ronald Higgins. "I think that's something that the court could have taken into consideration."

Carpenter's mother also tried to convince the judge that he is a responsible person who made a mistake as a young man.

"He was an altar boy when he was at school," said Kathleen Carpenter. "Paul has always been a quiet, responsible and respectful young man."

But the judge wasn't convinced.

"These were a completely senseless, impulsive series of acts that truly forever changed the lives of the families, as we saw when they came to court," said L.A. County Superior Judge Katherine Mader.