SANTA ANA — As several of his surviving victims cried and comforted each other, a former postal worker who killed his mother and a close friend and attempted to kill seven others during a two-day rampage was sentenced Tuesday to nine life terms in prison.
Mark Richard Hilbun, sporting shaggy gray hair and a long beard, sat impassively as Superior Court Judge Everett W. Dickey imposed the sentence.
Prosecutors attributed Hilbun's violent 1993 spree in part to his obsession with fellow postal worker Kim Springer.
Before his sentencing, Springer stood, glaring at Hilbun, and told the court how stunned she has been all these years that his infatuation with her ended up hurting so many people.
Springer later said in an interview that for several years, she was consumed with guilt over the death and destruction caused by Hilbun, feeling responsible because his obsession with her sparked his deadly crimes.
"I've carried all this guilt," she said. "It took a lot of work to convince me that it was not my fault."
Two of Hilbun's shooting victims also spoke.
"It's been the longest four years of my life," said Elizabeth Shea, 31, who was shot in the head. "All I ask is that this coward not get out on parole. I don't want to worry about this in 30 years."
Afterward, the two victims said they relished the opportunity to face their attacker in court.
"It felt powerful to look him in the eye and say, 'I'm still here,' " said 52-year-old Patricia Salot, who was shot twice in the neck and once in the hip.
Hilbun, 42, was convicted by a jury of murder, attempted murder and related crimes last August. But the jury later deadlocked on whether the San Juan Capistrano man was insane during the bloody crime spree. Rather than seeking to retry him on the sanity issue, the defense proposed an agreement that he spend life in prison without possibility of parole. That plea agreement was approved in November. Seven of the life sentences are consecutive and two are concurrent.
The rampage began when Hilbun stabbed his 63-year-old mother, Frances Hilbun, to death in her Corona del Mar home and killed her cocker spaniel. Wearing a T-shirt with "Psycho" written across it, he then headed to the Dana Point post office where he had worked and opened fire on his co-workers, including the supervisor who had suspended him and was trying to fire him for stalking Springer.
One co-worker was injured, and Hilbun's close friend Charles Barbagallo, 45, of San Clemente was killed. Springer, who had spurned Hilbun's advances for a year, hid and was not injured, and Hilbun's shots missed the supervisor.
The shooting spree continued after Hilbun fled in his pickup. He shot and injured Salot, a Newport Beach businesswoman, after stealing her magnetic business placards to disguise his pickup. He later tried to rob three people at Fountain Valley bank teller machines, shooting and injuring two of them, including Shea.
Hilbun was captured as he sat sipping a beer at a sports bar in Huntington Beach. He told police and psychiatrists he believed the world was coming to an end and that God had told him to take Springer by kayak to Baja California, where they would re-create the human race. He said he wanted to spare his mother from the apocalypse.
After years of psychological and emotional struggles, Springer, 33, returned to her job as a postal worker in Dana Point and said she has been trying to live a peaceful life.
"This hasn't defeated me," she said. "It hasn't. Life does go on and I've been hanging in there."
Springer, Salot and Shea had never met before Tuesday. The three women hugged and comforted each other and said that facing Hilbun had been cathartic.
While Salot said she forgives her attacker, Springer said she finds that impossible to do. Still, she does not believe in the death penalty and was pleased with the life sentence.
Prosecutors also expressed satisfaction with the sentence because it means that Hilbun will never be released from prison.
"It ensures he won't draw another free breath," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher J. Evans.
Defense lawyers said Hilbun suffers from a long history of manic depression and schizophrenia that was undiagnosed and untreated at the time of the shootings.
"He was not functioning as a human being or seeing [the victims] as human beings," said Deputy Public Defender Denise Gragg. "He was so ill."
Before he begins serving any of the life sentences, Hilbun must serve separate sentences of five years, 10 months, for other felony crimes related to the spree and 26 additional years because of the weapons used.
He was also ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to the state of California, which will go into a fund for victims of crime.