Ramona man who fatally beat elderly neighbor with hammer sentenced to life term

EL CAJON (CNS) – A Ramona man who beat his 94-year-old neighbor to death
with a hammer after she let him spend the night in her mobile home was
sentenced Wednesday to 26 years to life in prison.

Gary Allen Thomas, 64, pleaded guilty in April to first-degree murder in
the death of Mary Jean Eskridge, the longtime owner of a dance studio in
Spring Valley.

“The defendant murdered a helpless 94-year-old woman in her sleep with
a claw hammer,” said Deputy District Attorney David Williams III. “For this
act of appalling evil, the defendant truly deserves to spend the rest of his
life in prison.”

The defendant will not be eligible for parole until he's 90, the
prosecutor said.

Thomas initially pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but withdrew
his plea and admitted guilt. Two court-appointed doctors found that the
defendant was not legally insane at the time of the murder, according to the

At Thomas' arraignment last year, the prosecutor said the victim — a
professional dancer in the big band era — believed the defendant was a trusted
friend and allowed him to spend the night in the guest bedroom of her mobile
home the night of April 30, 2012.

The next morning, Thomas grabbed a hammer out of a toolbox in the
victim's kitchen, proceeded down the hall and, for reasons unknown, beat
Eskridge to death as she slept, striking her eight times in the head, the
prosecutor said.

Eskridge was found in a bedroom of her mobile home about 11:30 a.m. May
1 by paramedics responding to an activated medical alert bracelet.

Thomas was arrested the next day.

Categories: KUSI