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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

Man Pleads Guilty in Slaying of 'Santa Claus'

November 22, 2000

LANCASTER — A Palmdale man who pleaded guilty to the slaying of an Antelope Valley man affectionately known as "Santa Claus," was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

James Patrick Wood, 23, pleaded to one count of second-degree murder in connection with the fatal beating of 64-year-old John Gailer, who authorities said was killed on Sept. 7, 1999.

Superior Court Judge Carol Koppel sentenced Wood to 15 years to life, plus an additional year for use of a metal pipe. Wood originally was charged with murder with the special circumstance of robbery.

In May, 20-year-old Sarah Jordan Ellis pleaded no contest to robbery and being an accessory after the fact in connection with Gailer's death. She is serving a five-year state prison sentence.

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

Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies recovered his body three days after the slaying after receiving complaints about a foul smell coming from the couple's apartment.

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