January 10, 2011
Orange County District Attorney's Office
SANTA ANA - Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) Tony Rackauckas announced today he will seek the death penalty against a man for the double-murder of a Stanton sales associate and his longtime secretary.
Hilbert Pineil Thomas, 39, Garden Grove, is charged with two felony counts of special circumstances murder for multiple murders, murder during the commission of robbery, and murder during the commission of burglary. He is also charged with one felony count each of second degree robbery, second degree commercial burglary, and the unlawful taking of a vehicle. Thomas is being held without bail and is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing Feb. 4, 2011, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-40, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Before the death penalty is pursued by the OCDA, a special circumstances committee will meet and confer. The committee consists of the District Attorney, the Senior Assistant and the Assistant in charge of the Homicide Unit, and other prosecutors experienced in capital cases. The committee will discuss the defendant's record, the nature of the crime, and the vulnerability of the victim, among other factors. The committee also considers mitigating circumstances from the defense attorney. The final decision to pursue the death penalty rests on the District Attorney.
The decision to seek the death penalty against Thomas was reached based on the seriousness and gravity of the execution-style double murder, the motivation for the crime, and the background of both the defendant and the innocent victims.
On the morning of Feb. 2, 2009, Thomas is accused of walking past Golden Sun Homes business office on Beach Boulevard in Stanton while taking his niece to school. He is accused of living approximately 500 feet from the business. The defendant is accused of deciding to murder the employees inside in order to steal a car belonging to a secretary for the business.
After dropping off his niece, Thomas is accused of walking in to Golden Sun Homes and shooting and murdering Matthew Francis Scott, a sales associate and son of the business co-owner. He is accused of shooting and murdering long-time secretary Elizabeth Ann Palmer execution-style in the head. Both victims were shot execution-style in the head. Thomas is accused of then stealing Palmer's Lexus sedan and fleeing the scene.
On Oct. 13, 2009, Thomas was served with a protective order by the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) barring him from having contact with his ex-wife after having set her car on fire in Los Angeles County. As a term of the protective order, Thomas was ordered to turn over all of his firearms to law enforcement. On Oct. 24, 2009, after months of searching for the vehicle, police found the stolen Lexus parked at the El Dorado Inn on Lincoln Avenue in Anaheim.
On Oct. 26, 2009, Thomas is accused of turning over a firearm to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (LASD) to comply with the protective order. On Oct. 28, 2009, OCSD determined that Thomas had been in possession of the stolen vehicle and began investigating him for the murders of Scott and Palmer. An investigation into Thomas' background showed that he had recently been contacted by LASD. Thomas is accused of having turned over the firearm used in the Orange County murders to LASD.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.