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Woman Sentenced to 25 Years to Life

Crime: Joy Hooker, 52, who did not go to her husband's aid after setting fire to their house, may one day be paroled.

March 20, 1997|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VAN NUYS — An Antelope Valley woman convicted for the arson murder of her husband, a former Los Angeles police officer, was sentenced Wednesday by a Superior Court judge to 25 years to life in state prison.

Joy Girard Hooker, 52, faced a mandatory life term for the death of Thomas Warren Hooker, who died at home in a fire April 17, 1993.

But in imposing the sentence, Judge Michael J. Farrell threw out the special circumstance charge, giving the 52-year-old woman hope she may one day be paroled.

"It is in the interest of justice that the special circumstance be stricken," Farrell said. "The defendant had a blameless life prior to this."

Hooker, with tears welling up in her eyes, sat silently as Farrell handed down the sentence that included 25 years to life on the first degree murder conviction, seven years for arson causing great bodily injury and five years for arson of an inhabited structure. The last two counts were stayed pending completion of her first term.

Joy Hooker and her ex-convict stepson David Warren Hooker were accused of setting the fire to collect insurance money. During the fire, authorities said, the two made no effort to rescue Thomas Hooker, who died on his bedroom floor from smoke inhalation.

The defense insisted the fire was set to stave off foreclosure by causing enough property damage to collect insurance money and that Thomas Hooker would not have died if he had not suffered from asthma and emphysema.

The co-defendants also denied accusations by police that they were lovers.

Nonetheless, juries in separate trials last year convicted each defendant of murder. David Hooker was sentenced June 6 to 25 years to life on murder and arson charges. Following Joy Hooker's conviction in December, Judge Farrell insisted that fairness demanded the same for his stepmother.

"I understand why the judge did it, and I cannot say he was wrong based on the equities involved," Deputy Dist. Atty. Ron Smallstig said afterward.

"She was less culpable of the two, and justice should always be tempered with mercy for those who are deserving."

"The reduction of special circumstances was fair," said defense attorney Earl Siddall. "Hopefully, the case, which has been appealed, will be reversed based on implied promises to Joy Hooker by the detectives."

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