LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A parolee convicted of gunning down a mother of five at a South Los Angeles discount store was sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
``This shooting was, in the court's opinion, a very gratuitous and senseless act,'' Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry said in sentencing Eric William Atkinson for the Sept. 17, 2013, killing of Martha Sanchez at the Happy Bargain 99-cent store in the 7400 block of Broadway, where she worked as a clerk. ``This is an extremely sad case given the acts that were committed by the defendant.''
A downtown Los Angeles jury deliberated less than three hours before finding Atkinson, 35, guilty on Jan. 22 of first-degree murder, dissuading a witness and possession of a firearm by a felon. Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a robbery, along with a gun allegation.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office opted before the trial not to seek the death penalty against Atkinson.
Sanchez, a married 39-year-old mother whose children ranged in age from 3 to 19 years old at the time of her death, was shot several times, even though she did not resist.
A store surveillance camera captured the fatal shooting and images showing the gunman's back were released to the public as investigators sought a suspect.
Atkinson -- who lived within a quarter-mile of the store -- was on parole at the time of the shooting. He had been convicted in 2003 of attempted robbery and was already in custody for a parole violation when he was arrested on the murder charge about three weeks after the killing.
Several of the victims' family members were in court for the sentencing hearing, but Deputy District Attorney Joel Wilson told the judge that it was too painful for them to make victim impact statements. Speaking on their behalf, the prosecutor said the crime had caused a loss that would never go away for them.
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