SANTA ANA (CBS) — A Huntington Beach man was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for punching a World War II veteran in the face and kicking him in the head during a mugging that left him in a coma from which he never emerged.
Curtis James Hill, 29, was convicted of murder on in November for the attack on Cecil “Lucky” Warren, 77, in 2003.
When Warren was in a coma, Hill pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery and aggravated assault and was sentenced to nine years in prison, but he was charged with murder when Warren died in 2007.
Hill was charged along with co-defendant John Kirk McKinney, 29, of Huntington Beach, who was convicted in November 2006 of second-degree robbery and aggravated assault and sentenced to four years in prison.
McKinney is still awaiting trial on the murder charge.
Warren lapsed into a coma shortly after the Nov. 11, 2003, attack and was declared brain dead, but his wife kept him on life-support machines for nearly four years, until Sept. 22, 2007.
After Hill was convicted of murder, Warren’s widow said she felt justice was done.
“It won’t bring him back, though,” Betty Warren said of her husband of 60 years. “I just don’t know why it happened. He didn’t have an enemy in the world.”
Her spouse gave himself the nickname “Lucky” as a youngster because other kids teased him about his first name, she said.
Warren was working as a groundskeeper at a Union Bank branch at Beach Boulevard and Edinger Avenue in Huntington Beach when he was mugged, Deputy District Attorney Sonia Balleste said.
Hill and McKinney “had been out the night before partying,” and were walking on Beach Boulevard when they spotted Warren’s van, Balleste said.
The two broke into the van and were going through the victim’s things when Warren confronted them, the prosecutor said. Hill punched Warren, took his wallet and kicked him in the head, she said.
They burned the wallet after taking out the cash and took off, Balleste said.
“The next day (Hill) went to work and told his boss he `jacked’ someone the night before,” Balleste said. “Mr. Warren was left bleeding in the dark and cold.”
Henry Stoltenberg, who had passed Warren nearly every day for eight years while on his morning walk, came across his friend about 20 minutes after the attack.
“He was laying on the ground in a kind of fetal position,” Stoltenberg testified.
The victim’s face was swollen and bloody and he was fading in and out of consciousness, so Stoltenberg ran to a pay phone and dialed 911.
Defense attorney Jeremy Goldman told jurors that Hill admitted “he ran up to Mr. Warren and punched him in the face” and expressed “regret and remorse” during questioning by police.
But Goldman challenged the prosecution’s assertion that Warren died as a result of the injuries suffered in the robbery.
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