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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

Woman Gets 5 Years in Robbery, Slaying

May 19, 2000

LANCASTER — A 20-year-old woman who pleaded no contest to robbery and being an accessory after the fact in the death of a man known locally as "Santa Claus" has been sentenced to five years in prison.

Sarah Jordan Ellis was arrested along with James Patrick Wood in September 1999 after the body of 64-year-old John Frederick Gailer was discovered in their Palmdale apartment, authorities said. Wood used a metal pipe to beat Gailer to death, the authorities said.

Gailer was popularly known as Santa Claus in the Antelope Valley because of his distinctive beard and long hair.

Ellis was sentenced Thursday by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Steven D. Ogden.

Wood is charged with murder with the special circumstance of robbery, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Jonathan Fairtlough, who declined to comment on whether he would seek the death penalty.

A pretrial hearing for Wood in Lancaster Superior Court is scheduled for Wednesday.

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