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Man, 18, Gets Life for Murder in $20 Theft

Court: Gang member will not be eligible for parole in shooting of retired schoolteacher, a longtime family friend.


A gang member convicted of killing a longtime family friend in a $20 robbery was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Joe Patrick Gaines, 18, was one of two teenagers found guilty of fatally shooting a retired schoolteacher, Kathryn Dawson, execution-style in her Compton home last year.

Because of Gaines' age, Compton Superior Court Judge Jack W. Morgan could have imposed a lesser sentence, 50 years to life.

"The judge did the right thing," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Danette Meyers. "There was no reason to give this guy a break."

Last July, Gaines and his friend Ollie Wayne Hawkins Jr., 17, robbed Dawson. Hawkins, who will be sentenced in August, testified that he watched Gaines force the 73-year-old woman to lie down with a pillow over her head, then shoot her once in the head.

Dawson's daughter, Yolanda Spooney, said that Gaines, because of family connections, had been considered a family member by her mother.

"My mother had been good to him and his family for years," she said, adding that her mother had known Gaines since he was 8.

Gaines also was ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution, which will come out of his prison wages.

Meyers said the sentence is fitting for Gaines, who at the time of the murder was on probation for carrying a firearm.

Gaines persuaded Hawkins to carry his gun, Meyers said. After the robbery and the shooting, Gaines buried the gun in his backyard.

Dawson taught second- and fifth-grade students in the Los Angeles Unified School District for 38 years. In February 2001, Dawson began working part time as a substitute teacher before retiring.

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