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Two Burbank men were sentenced Monday — one to life behind bars and the other to 25 years to life in prison — for the financially motivated killing of a Glendale resident whose remains were discovered buried in the Angeles National Forest.

Donald Thurman, 30, was convicted June 29 of first-degree murder in the January 2013 beating death of Nicholas Carter and was ordered to spend his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegations of murder for financial gain, killing a witness, murder while lying in wait and murder during a robbery, but prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty for Thurman.

Co-defendant Erik Thomas Pearson, 26, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. He pleaded guilty May 16 to first-degree murder, and claimed Thurman threatened to kill him if he didn’t kill Carter.

The victim’s body was found on Jan. 19, 2013, in a shallow grave off of Big Tujunga Canyon Road, after a search by cadaver dogs.

A hiker had discovered pools of blood in the area the morning after the killing, but an immediate search of the area came up empty. The grave site was several hundred yards away from the first signs of foul play.

Pearson admitted that he clubbed the 25-year-old victim over the head but said he was duped by Thurman, who claimed to be an undercover police officer. Pearson said Thurman ultimately threatened to kill him, his family and his girlfriend unless he killed Carter.

Text messages and jailhouse conversations corroborated some of Pearson’s account, according to Deputy District Attorney Marc Debbaudt.

The day after the killing, Thurman began withdrawing money from Carter’s bank accounts — eventually draining them of thousands of dollars — and using his credit cards, the prosecutor said.

Thurman admitted on the stand that he had had Carter’s wallet, but testified that Carter had given it to him for a scam that would benefit them both.

Prosecutors said Thurman used Carter’s personal data to guarantee a lease for someone else and Carter reported that identity theft to police, motivating the killing.

Carter met Thurman through Craigslist while looking for a place to stay and lived with his killer for a few months at a residence not far from the crime scene.

A friend of Carter’s and his current roommate both knew he had gone to meet Thurman on Jan. 7, 2013. They didn’t believe text messages sent later from his phone, including one telling them that Carter’s grandmother had died, and filed a missing persons report.

–City News Service

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