A former white supremacist was sentenced Thursday to life in prison with no chance of parole for the racially motivated murder of a black man whose skeletal remains were found about three months after he was beaten with a baseball bat, chased into the desert in Palmdale and stabbed.
Richard Phillip Ritchie, 39, was convicted Dec. 18 of the July 1997 killing of Howard Garfield McClendon, 32, of Los Angeles.
Jurors also convicted Ritchie of conspiracy to commit murder, and found true the special circumstance allegations that the victim was murdered by means of lying in wait and was murdered because of his race.
Deputy District Attorney Geoffrey Lewin said Ritchie and co-defendant Kelly Sorrell lured McClendon into a car and drove him down a dirt road so Sorrell could get lightning bolt tattoos, a supposed badge of honor for white supremacists who kill blacks.
Authorities said the victim was stabbed so many times he was nearly decapitated.
Ritchie’s attorney, Daniel Nardoni, told City News Service outside the courtroom that his client “still maintains his innocence.”
Ritchie was already serving a nearly 40-year state prison sentence for committing a string of home-invasion robberies in 1999 when he was arrested in 2004 for McClendon’s murder.
Sorrell, 37, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, admitted a hate crime allegation and testified during Ritchie’s trial.
“I know that what I did was awful and that I can’t do anything to make up for it,” Sorrell said at her sentencing Dec. 19, when she was sentenced to 29 years to life in state prison. “… I had no right to do what I did.”
Sorrell said that she has kicked a drug habit and become a better person during just over a decade behind bars since her January 2004 arrest.
— City News Service