A 35-year-old man convicted of murdering two men — one in Pomona and the other in Altadena just over a month later — was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for what a judge said appeared to be “surprise ambushes” of his friends.
Just before being sentenced, Michael Spengler maintained that he is “innocent” of the Jan. 9, 2013, slaying of 32-year-old Michael Meza of Pomona and the Feb. 16, 2013, killing of 26-year-old Marcus Nieto of Azusa.
“I really did not commit these murders,” Spengler said, contending that he had lied to a jailhouse informant to whom he had confessed his involvement in the killings. “I am erroneously convicted.”
Jurors found Spengler guilty April 29 of first-degree murder involving Nieto and second-degree murder involving Meza. The panel also found true the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders.
Another jury had acquitted the Pomona man in 2017 of first-degree murder for Meza’s killing, but deadlocked on second-degree murder. A second man was acquitted of murder.
“Both murders appear to have been surprise ambushes of the defendant’s friends,” Superior Court Judge Henry J. Hall said in ordering Spengler to serve life in prison without parole for Nieto’s killing and an additional 15-year-to-life term for Meza’s slaying. “They appear to be largely senseless.”
The judge said he believed Spengler should “never be released from prison,” and said he was convinced that the defendant is an “extremely dangerous man.”
Deputy District Attorney Martin Bean said the motive for the killings was unknown.
Defense attorney Stanley Perlo told jurors in his closing argument there was no physical evidence such as DNA or guns that tie his client to either of the crimes, and claimed that his client was looking for protection in jail when he spoke to the jailhouse informant.
“This is a very easy case to just jump at guilty (verdicts),” Spengler’s attorney told the panel. “Mr. Spengler is just not an appealing person … Is he a killer? No.”
The prosecutor countered that Spengler is a “pathological liar” who wanted to fool them.
“It wasn’t about protection,” Bean said of the defendant’s jailhouse statements about the killings.
Meza, who had been shot eight times, was found shot to death in a white Dodge Charger on the shoulder of the White Avenue offramp from the eastbound San Bernardino (10) Freeway in Pomona.
Nieto suffered blunt force trauma to the head and was found by a passerby on a trail in the 3800 block of Canon Boulevard in Altadena.
Nieto’s father, David, said he hopes that his son’s convicted killer “rots” in prison.
Meza’s younger sister, Elizabeth, said she was in court to represent her family.
“A piece of us has also died with our loved ones,” she told the judge, urging him to make Spengler “pay for the hurt and loss” that the victims’ family members have suffered.