John T. Earnest, the 22-year-old former nursing student who is responsible for the deadly attack on Chabad of Poway in California, is now pleading guilty to murder.
Using a semi-automatic rifle, Earnest entered Chabad on the last day of Pesach in 2019 and killed congregant Lori Kaye OBM. He also wounded its former rabbi Yisroel Goldstein and an 8-year-old girl.
The San Diego County district attorney’s office said that by pleading guilty Earnest will avoid the death penalty.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on the death penalty in 2019, the AP reported.
Instead, Earnest agreed to serve the rest of his life in state prison without the possibility of parole. His sentencing is scheduled for September 30th.
He does still face similar charges in federal court, where U.S. prosecutors face an Aug. 30 deadline on whether to pursue the death penalty, AP reported.
Kelly Thornton, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego, said the federal case is moving forward, with a hearing scheduled for Sept. 8.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland halted federal executions this month while the Justice Department conducts a review of its policies and procedures.
Earnest submitted a conditional plea agreement for consideration by federal prosecutors on June 4, the San Diego County district attorney’s office said.
The district attorney said it consulted the Kaye family and other victims before agreeing to the deal, aware that a possible plea arrangement in the federal prosecution would prevent the state’s case from moving forward.
“While we reserved the option of trying this as a death penalty case, life in prison without the possibility of parole for the defendant is an appropriate resolution to this violent hate crime, and we hope it brings a measure of justice and closure to the victims, their families, friends and the wider community,” the office said. “This plea ensures the defendant is held accountable for his crimes under California state law.”