A state appellate court panel Wednesday rejected the latest appeal filed on behalf of one of two men convicted of the beating deaths of an 81-year-old man and his 79-year-old wife in their La Habra Heights home more than two decades ago.

The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal agreed with a Superior Court judge’s finding that Lewis Edward Hardin is ineligible to have his murder conviction vacated and be re-sentenced as a result of a change in state law

Hardin, now 50, and co-defendant Theodore Shove, now 70, were convicted of first-degree murder in the Sept. 15, 2001, tire iron attack on Hubert and Elizabeth Souther.

The two victims — who had been married for more than 50 years — were found dead in their bed on Sept. 17, 2001, by one of their two adult daughters.

Prosecutors argued during the trial that Hardin carried out the killings at the behest of Shove, who was trying to take over Hubert Souther’s successful aerospace salvage business, Cal Aero Supply Co.

Shove was sentenced to death in March 2008. His automatic appeal before the California Supreme Court is still pending.

Hardin was sentenced in June 2008 to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He maintained then that he “had nothing to do” with the killings and said he “just got mixed up with the wrong crowd.”

One of the couple’s daughters, Allison Renck, said at Hardin’s sentencing, “My parents deserved the right to live and that was taken from them.” She noted then that “life has never been the same” since.

A state appeals court panel found in an October 2009 ruling upholding Hardin’s conviction that there was “substantial and compelling evidence of appellant’s guilt,” including “DNA from 11 bloodstains collected inside and outside the home was at least partially matched to appellant,” and seven bloodstains that were “definite DNA matches.”

The 2009 ruling noted that there was “no evidence appellant knew the victims or had any legitimate reason to be on their property and in their home” and “no innocent or legitimate reason for his trail of blood leading from inside their home, through their yard, and over a back wall.”

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